Taiwan and China are two different countries and appeasement breeds aggression, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) told US politicians and academics in Washington during a video conference last night.
"Taiwan is an independent sovereign country and our sovereignty is independent from the rule of China," he said.
"Taiwan is Taiwan. China is China. Taiwan and China are two independent nations on either side of the Taiwan Strait," he said.
The fact that Taiwan has 25 diplomatic allies runs counter to the message that Taiwan is part of China, said Chen, who was invited by the National Press Club (NPC) to make a speech to its members via teleconference.
Chen said China was damaging the "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait and the democratic community should not turn a blind eye to it.
"History has taught us one important lesson: Appeasement breeds aggression," he said.
"To maintain a lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait and ensure security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the international community must send the right signals to China," he said.
The international community must guide China toward democratization and join forces to build a more democratic, freer and safer world, Chen said.
Saying that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) favores "ultimate unification with China" and was "stalling" on a new defense budget for Taiwan designed to counter China's growing assertiveness, Chen told his audience that a
KMT-ruled Taiwan "would pose a severe challenge and trial to the mutual trust and foundation for cooperation laid by our two countries [Taiwan and the US] over the years."
The 70-minute conference titled "Democratic Taiwan: Challenges and Prospects" began at 8:30pm Taiwan time and was hosted by NPC vice chairman Peter Hickman.
Chen opened with a 10-minute speech and then spent the next 20 minutes answering questions from current and former US politicians.
They included Representative Lincoln Davis, a Democrat; US-Taiwan Business Council chairman Rupert Hammond-Chambers; former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush; former AIT chairwoman Therese Shaheen; and Randy Schriver, former US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
Responding to Chen's speech, Shaheen said she agreed with him that "appeasement would lead to aggression," adding that China's actions in certain areas seemed increasingly inconsistent with its declared policies.
Schriver applauded Taiwan's democratic performance, saying it was important not only to the country but to the US as well. He added that the US should do more to help Taiwan's democratic transition.
The last 35 minutes consisted of a question-and-answer session.
While fielding questions, Chen said the biggest challenge facing Taiwan was the lack of consensus on national identification, with some people considering China as their "motherland."
It is a wrong assumption to believe China has no intention to attack Taiwan, Chen said, and Taiwan will not hand over the responsibility of protecting itself to the US or other countries.
While the US government wants to see Taiwan talk more about democracy and human rights than sovereignty, Chen said he did not understand why the collective human rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan to enter global institutions such as the UN continue to be ignored.
In response to questions about what he intends to accomplish during his last year in office, Chen said he would dedicate his remaining term to strengthening Taiwan-centered consciousness and helping efforts to join the UN and the WHO under the name "Taiwan" in line with the US' Taiwan Relations Act, which recognizes Taiwan as a country and therefore makes it completely legitimate for Taiwan to join international organizations.
HE said that using the name "Taiwan" to join international organizations did not violate the "four noes" pledge he made in 2000 nor was it equivalent to changing the name of the country.
The "four noes" refer to the pledge Chen made as part of his first inaugural speech, where he promised that as long as China did not use military force against Taiwan, he would not declare independence, change the national title, enshrine the "state-to-state" model of cross-strait relations in the Constitution, or endorse a referendum on formal independence.
Asked by media about any piece of advice he would like to share with his successor, Chen said that US President George W. Bush would not have signed the arms procurement package for Taiwan in 2001 without his "four noes" pledge, adding that he had worked hard during his presidency to ensure stability in the Strait.
Chen said he was sure his successor would understand the importance of US-Taiwan relations.
Asked about his plans after his term ends, Chen said he would heed the advice former US president Bill Clinton had given him: avoid criticizing your successor and refrain from giving him or her instructions.
additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and AFP
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