Some people in Taiwan are too carried away with what they consider a "victory" -- President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) move to "cease the function" of the National Unification Council (NUC) -- and risk damaging an understanding between Washington and Taipei on the matter, a US expert in cross-strait issues said on Friday.
"When the US negotiated the language used in President Chen's seven-point statement, it obviously felt that, whatever the nuances of the Chinese-language version, the ambiguity of the English permitted the interpretation that the NUC and Guidelines had not been abolished," said Alan Romberg, director of East Asian Studies at the Henry L. Stimson Center.
"Since then, however, some people in Taipei have trumpeted their `victory' too loudly, even to the point of seeming to equate `cease to function' and `abolish' ... the impression among many in Washington is that there has been a breach of faith and that Taipei's claim of `maintaining the status quo' rings hollow," he added.
Chen announced last Monday that the NUC would "cease to function" and the unification guidelines would "cease to apply," a move which he insisted "does not involve changing the status quo."
The announcement came nearly one month after Chen proposed that the country should seriously consider "abolishing" the council and guidelines.
Not "abolishing" the NUC and guidelines was one of the promises that Chen made in his inaugural addresses of 2000 and 2004, on the condition that "China has no intention of using force against Taiwan."
The US has repeatedly emphasized that it takes those assurances seriously and that it opposes any unilateral change in the cross-strait status quo.
In an immediate reaction to Chen's announcement, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the US understanding of the meaning of ceasing the NUC's function is that "it has not been abolished. It's been frozen."
However, there have been reports quoting senior officials in Taiwan as saying that there is no distinction between "abolish" and "cease to function" and that the effect of Taiwan's action earlier this week was to abolish the NUC.
Although informed that the officials were misquoted, Ereli issued a rare statement in written form on Thursday saying "we expect the Taiwan authorities publicly to correct the record and unambiguously affirm that the Feb. 27 announcement did not abolish the council, did not change the status quo, and that the assurances remain in effect."
The statement by a US official requesting Taiwan to "unambiguously affirm" it "did not abolish" the NUC has revealed an "underlying level of US frustration" in its dealings with Taiwan over the NUC episode, Romberg said.
"Any further statements from Taipei on this or other cross-strait issues will be very closely scrutinized," he said.
Romberg said the US, like China, has been concerned about what "next steps" Chen will take.