Sun, Feb 26, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Abolition of NUC no big deal: experts

OVERREACTION The president's suggestion to abolish the long-redundant unification council and guidelines has caused far too much concern, political commentators said

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Many people feel that critics of President Chen Shu-bian's (陳水扁) proposal to abolish the National Unification Council (NUC) and unification guidelines have overreacted, including the US government.

Senior Adviser to the President Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) said: "It is undeniable that the president's proposal to scrap the National Unification Council and guidelines is in some degree based on domestic political considerations, but I think the US government has completely overreacted."

"It baffles me as to why the US opposes the idea of getting rid of a dead document and something that was long forgotten and not functional," he added. Besides, Peng continued, the president did not break his "four no's and one without" promises because the precondition for the pledges no longer exists.

Although the administration must value the US government's opinion, he said that it is impossible for Taiwan to listen to the US all of the time.

Peng also blamed the pro-unification media for complicating the matter by blowing the issue out of proportion, which caused the US to overreact.

Discussing US concerns, another Senior Adviser to the President Huang Chu-wen (黃主文) said that one democratic country must respect the democratic development of another democratic country.

Although the National Unification Council and guidelines had their historical purpose, Huang said that they are like the sign of a shop that is no longer in business and should be abandoned as soon as possible.

"When I asked former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) why he wanted to set up the unification council in the first place, he told me at that time that it was simply a safety helmet and that it did not have much meaning," Huang said.

As the first native-born Taiwanese president, Lee established the council in 1990 in order to secure his political position at the top of an authoritarian regime dominated by mainlanders, who still harbored the illusion of "reclaiming China." The guidelines were adopted by the council in 1991 as the blueprint for the government's cross-strait policy.

democratic and free

The guidelines set a goal to pursue unification with a China that is governed by a democratic and free system with an equitable distribution of wealth.

The guidelines also outline what positive steps both sides can take in the near, medium and long-term to ultimately achieve the goal of unification.

As Lee increased his hold on political power, he refrained from calling any more meetings of the council.

Chen raised political eyebrows when he proposed on the first day of the Lunar New Year that the time was ripe to seriously consider abolishing the council and guidelines.

The suggestion was widely seen as a move to counter Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) theory of "eventual unification."

Chen's proposal touched off a heated debate and drew immense criticism, both at home and abroad.

Despite media reports, the US State Department has yet to fully concede that secret trips were conducted by two US officials -- National Security Council Asia specialist Dennis Wilder and the State Department's chief Taiwan staffer, Clifford Hart -- to Taipei for meetings with Chen to try and convince him to drop plans to eliminate the unification council and guidelines.

But such trips have taken place in the past at times of particular strain in US-Taiwan relations. When Chen proposed to hold a referendum in tandem with the 2004 presidential election, the US government sent Michael Green, then senior director for East Asian affairs of the US National Security Council, to Taipei in November 2003.

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