Wed, Mar 01, 2006 - Page 3 News List

NUC `episode is closed,' US says

MISTRUST?US officials said there was no quid pro quo entailed in the compromise made on the unification body, adding that it was watching for the president's next move

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

President Chen Shui-bian signs a document in the Presidential Office yesterday confirming that the National Unification Council will cease to function and the Guidelines for National Unification will cease to apply. Chen is accompanied by Presidential Office Secretary-General Mark Chen.

PHOTO: CNA

The US said it was satisfied with the way that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) dealt with the National Unification Council and guidelines on Monday, saying that his action in mothballing the council did not amount to a unilateral change in the status quo, thus satisfying Washington's main concern in relation to the dispute.

"We welcome President Chen's reaffirmation of his administration's commitment to cross-strait peace and stability, and Taiwan's commitment to the pledges that President Chen made in his inaugural address to not unilaterally alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters in Washington.

Chen's decision "did not abolish the National Unification Council," McClellan said.

The laudatory tone was echoed by Adam Ereli, the State Department spokesman, who told his daily press briefing that Chen "reaffirmed his continuing commitment to the pledges he made in his 2000 inaugural address not to change the status quo across the Straits [sic]."

But Ereli indicated that the wording Chen used in his announcement may not have completely erased the mistrust that the issue has stirred up.

"We attach great importance to that commitment," Ereli said, "and we'll be following his follow-through carefully."

"And we certainly look forward to [Chen] fulfilling those commitments," he said.

McClellan and Ereli also called on Beijing to open a dialogue with Chen and his government to work out differences on cross-strait policy, indicating that they felt Chen's compromise on the unification issue should be reciprocated by Beijing by opening dialogue with Chen's government.

"The United States continues to also stress the need for Beijing to open a meaningful dialogue with the duly elected leadership in Taiwan that leads to a peaceful resolution of their differences," McClellan said.

Ereli declined to say whether the US considered the unification council issue closed.

"For us, the episode is closed or the issue is closed when parties on both sides of the Straits [sic] resolve their differences [through cross-strait dialogue," he said.

The wording of Chen's announcement that the council will "cease functioning" and the guidelines will "cease to apply" was the result of weeks of intense pressure exerted on Chen by the Bush administration not to abolish the council.

After his Lunar New Year speech late last month, when Chen first announced that he was considering scrapping the council and guidelines, the US complained loudly that such a move would unilaterally change the "status quo" across the Taiwan Strait, breaking a bedrock principle of US cross-strait policy.

After weeks of jawboning -- including the dispatch of high-level US officials to Taipei for talks with Chen, the details of which remain secret -- the US managed to get Chen to back away from his abolition plan.

But US officials refused to say whether the words Chen used on Monday were dictated by them.

The logjam was broken several days ago, when Chen agreed to "freeze," rather than "abolish," the workings of the council and applicability of the guidelines.

It is not clear what Chen got in return for bowing to US pressure. US officials say there was no quid pro quo, such as a pledge by Washington to lean harder on Beijing to open talks with the Chen government.

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