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US Urges Taiwan's Chen to Keep His Promises
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The US has reminded Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian to keep his commitment to not raising sovereignty issues after he pushed for a new "constitution" for the island.


Chen, under pressure to resign over corruption scandals, raised the issue of a new "constitution" at a seminar on Sunday sponsored by his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).


The Taiwan leader raised the possibility of changing the territorial definitions of Taiwan.


Reacting to the move, the US State Department said on Monday that Washington "does not support independence for Taiwan, and we continue to be opposed to unilateral changes in the status quo by either side."


The US took "very seriously" Chen's "repeated commitments not to permit the 'constitutional' reform process to touch on sovereignty issues, including territorial definition," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. "We expect him to carry out those commitments, and we'll see what happens."


The fulfillment of the commitments, Casey said, "is a test of his leadership, as well as his ability to protect Taiwan's interests and its relations with others, and to maintain peace and stability in the Straits."


The National People's Congress (NPC) last year approved the Anti-Secession Law to deter any secessionist scheme seeking formal independence for the island because Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.


Chen told the seminar on Sunday that Taiwan should overhaul its "constitution" that was enacted by the Kuomintang (KMT) government in 1947 and has gone through seven amendments since 1991.


Under the "constitution," "Taiwan's territory included all of China," but in reality only Taiwan and some offshore islands are ruled from Taipei, he said. Chen has previously sidestepped the sensitive topic of territory by saying that Taiwan needs a new "constitution" only to enhance government efficiency.


In a related development, Taiwan's People First Party (PFP) yesterday proposed a new recall vote in the "legislature" in a renewed effort to oust Chen.


The first attempt to launch a recall that would include an island-wide referendum on Chen's fate failed in June when fewer than the required two-thirds of "lawmakers" voted in its favor.


The proposal came after a call on Monday by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou for a new recall motion.


A "legislative" committee agreed yesterday to consider the PFP motion. Chen's DPP said in a statement that it opposed the move.


The fresh attempt to topple Chen comes after hundreds of thousands of people, led by former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh, took to Taipei's streets this month calling for his resignation.


The round-the-clock demonstration in downtown Taipei began on September 9. Smaller rallies in southern Taiwan this week led to scuffles between anti- and pro-Chen camps.


Chen, who was elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2004 by a thin margin, has been questioned over the undocumented use of more than 36 million new Taiwan dollars (US$1.12 million) from his confidential "state affairs budget" for 2005.


His wife, Wu Shu-chen, is accused of accepting millions in department store gift certificates, but Chen has rejected the accusation. His son in-law, Chao Chien-ming, is facing insider trading charges and fighting them in court. Chen's ex-deputy chief of staff, Chen Che-nan, faces corruption charges.


(China Daily September 27, 2006)

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