President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) firm stance on pushing ahead with a referendum on whether to join the UN using the name "Taiwan" raised the prospect of a rocky period in relations with the US, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
The report, with the headline "Taiwan leader vows to pursue vote on island's name," was published in the international section of yesterday's edition. It said Chen had dismissed US objections to the referendum as an appeasement of China and that his defiant stand "raised the prospect of a rocky period in Taiwan's relations with the Bush administration and a rise in tension across the volatile 100-mile [160km] strait separating Taiwan from mainland China."
Describing Chen as an "ardent independence advocate," the report said that Chen told the paper during a recent interview that the idea of such a referendum has been endorsed by the main opposition group, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), as well as his own party. The paper, however, misidentified Chen's party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as the "People's Progressive Party."
The report said the KMT has decided to endorse the referendum, while keeping the issue of the name to be used open. The report quoted an anonymous key KMT leader as saying that the party was simply acting on electoral considerations because it did not want to appear anti-nationalist to centrist voters.
The KMT's proposal differs from the DPP's. The KMT's proposal is to "return" to the UN and to "join" other international organizations under the name "Taiwan" or "ROC" or any other name that would both increase the odds of success and retain the nation's dignity.
The Chinese transcript of the Post interview provided by the Presidential Office yesterday said that Chen urged the KMT to apologize to Taiwanese for boycotting and defaming the referendum held in tandem with the 2004 presidential election.
The report quoted Chen as saying that the KMT "did not dare" oppose this latest referendum because "it represents what has become mainstream opinion in Taiwan," which he defined in the interview as "Taiwan-centric consciousness."