The US has reiterated its call to President Chen Shui-bian (
In its report on the interview on Tuesday, the Post led with an assertion that Chen said he plans to soon "open a debate on a new constitution ... including the explosive issues of sovereignty, territorial and formal independence."
But a transcript of the Post interview, which quickly became widely available in Washington, showed that Chen spent much of his time explaining how difficult any constitutional change would be under Taipei's political system, and did not say specifically that he planned to push sovereignty issues directly as part of his program for the rest of his second four-year term.
Responding to questions at his regular daily press briefing, State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said he was "reluctant to get into a daily back and forth with Taiwanese officials about things that they said the day before."
He said only that "the leadership of Taiwan has made public commitments with regard to its cross-straits [sic] policy. Those commitments are well known. We appreciate them, and we take them seriously. And we expect that they will be sustained."
Ereli declined to characterize Chen's statements to the Post as backing away from his pledge not to change the "status quo," especially in the wake of his decision to cease operations of the National Unification Council.
Ereli expressed satisfaction that Chen is sticking by his commitment to retain the "four-noes" pledge he made in his 2000 and 2004 inauguration speeches and in the no-status-quo-change pledge in his declaration on the unification council and guidelines.
He referred reporters to statements that he and the department made on March 2, in which they accepted Chen's assurance that his unification council decision was not intended to change the "status quo," and that the council "had not been abolished."
At the time, Ereli and the department also dismissed as inaccurate reports that quoted senior Democratic Progressive Party officials as saying Chen had actually abolished the council, despite what he told Washington.
Nevertheless, Ereli continued to refuse to comment on whether Washington has received actual confirmation from Chen that he meant what he said in his unification council pledge to Washington.
"We continue to stand by the March 2 statement," Ereli said.
In the Post interview, Chen played down concerns that he had made a rash decision to reform the Constitution.
The president noted that under Taiwan's system, a three-quarters majority of the legislature must approve any changes, and this must be approved by a referendum approved by a majority of the people eligible to vote.
That means that any change in the name of the nation, the national territory or the flag, "must abide by very strict constitutional procedures," he was quoted as saying.
"Everybody can rest assured," Chen said, "that the process and final outcome of bringing forth Taiwan's new constitution will not be accomplished through revision or formulation by one political party or one individual," but will need the okay of all political parties.