Chen's Move Benefits Neither China Nor US

Washington has finally come to recognize that Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's push for independence benefits neither China nor the United States, mainland experts on cross-Straits ties said yesterday.

While appreciating US President George W. Bush's blunt warning against Taipei's pro-independence moves, they urged the US Government to take more concrete steps to honour its commitment to the one-China policy.

Xu Shiquan, vice-chairman of the National Society of Taiwan Studies, described Chen as a "new troublemaker," adding that the United States should learn an important lesson from his lack of political credibility.

The Taiwan leader has been engaging in creeping separatist activities despite his earlier pledge not to press for independence during his four-year term, which ends next year.

This double-dealing has well demonstrated that Chen has been flirting with Washington while counting on its support for his political ambitions, according to Xu.

"It is high time that the US side knew the separatist forces led by Chen are just serving their own self-interests rather than the interests of Washington," the researcher said.

Xu made the comments after President Bush sent a stern warning to Taipei on Tuesday not to take any action toward independence during his meeting with visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Washington "opposes any unilateral decision" by either side of the Taiwan Straits "to change the status quo," Bush said when asked about a planned March 20 referendum on the island. "And the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose."

His statement marked a delicate hardening of the usual US line that Washington "does not support" independence moves by the island.

The planned "defensive referendum" would allow the Taiwanese people to vote on whether they want to formally demand that the mainland remove hundreds of missiles aimed at the island. But the plebiscite is widely considered by both Beijing and Washington as a poll that could push Taiwan closer to independence.

Wen accused Chen of planning the referendum as a cover to split the island from China.

But Chen sought to defend his plans for the planned vote yesterday, saying "the topic of the defensive referendum ballot is very simple, very concrete and very important."

Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Chen's insistence on the referendum plan suggested his penchant for brinkmanship in dealing with cross-Straits relations. Chen has been bent on staging provocative acts to challenge the mainland's bottom line in a bid to woo votes in next year's "presidential" elections, he added.

He urged Washington to stop selling arms to the island, which might be taken as a wrong signal by the separatist forces and be interpreted the US support for the island's pro-independence attempt.

(China Daily December 11, 2003)