Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, July 29, 2003

US, China Co-operate to Fight Taiwan Referendum Plan

Washington and Beijing should band together to press Taipei to abandon its highly proactive referendum plan in a bid to ensure stable cross-Straits ties, according to leading experts on Taiwan studies speaking on the matter Monday.


Washington and Beijing should band together to press Taipei to abandon its highly proactive referendum plan in a bid to ensure stable cross-Straits ties, according to leading experts on Taiwan studies speaking on the matter Monday.

"Strengthened co-operation between China and the United States in this field benefits not only the interests of both sides, but also long-term peace and stability in cross-Straits relations,'' said Yu Keli, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Yu told China Daily that Washington should closely work with Beijing and state its opposition more clearly against Taipei's plans to hold an island wide referendum. He said the referendum serves as "a creeping pro-independence move that threatens to trigger a crisis in cross-Straits ties.''

Yu made the remarks after Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian reaffirmed on Saturday his commitment to holding a referendum to determine whether to finish a partially built nuclear power plant before his four-year term ends next March.

Chen, who doubles as chairman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said his government is "now drawing up a plan to establish a referendum mechanism'' as he delivered a telecast speech to the 30th Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations in London.

Although the referendum, at least on the surface, is non-political and plays no part in cross-Straits relations, it is widely believed that the ruling DPP is taking advantage of the plan to pave the way for a referendum on whether to seek formal independence from China.

The DPP enshrines Taiwan independence in its party platform, and favours a public referendum to decide the island's future.

In the latest move to show its worry about Taiwan's proposed referendum, Beijing sent two senior envoys to Washington last week in hopes of seeking understanding and co-operation from the US.

Chen Yunlin and Zhou Mingwei, the director and deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council respectively, reportedly told US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage that any referendum on the island is an unacceptable move that will lead to an eventual vote on independence.

Yu added that recent developments have demonstrated that Beijing has apparently gained growing support from Washington on its clear-cut stand on the referendum issue.

The United States has begun to voice strong disapproval of the Taiwanese move, both at official and non-official occasions, according to the researcher.

For instance, Armitage reportedly expressed US concerns over a possible crisis arising from the Taiwanese referendum plan while meeting Taiwan's "presidential secretary general'' Chiou I-jen, who was on a US mission to explain reasons behind the proposed plebiscite over the weekend.

Former US ambassador to China James Lilley also said on Sunday that he was worried a referendum may prevent Taiwan's economy from developing further.

Speaking at the launch of his new book in Taipei, he warned the island against going too far to provoke the Chinese mainland.

"All these US moves suggest that Washington has recognized the potential harm that may be brought about by Taiwan's referendum plan,'' said Li Jiaquan, another senior researcher with Yu's institute.

He stressed that the final implementation of the plan will hinge on whether Washington can "effectively exert pressure on Taipei'' despite Chen Shui-bian's determination to push ahead with the proposed referendum.

Taiwan Talks
State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan Monday told a former US official that China and the United States should "earnestly'' address the problems in their bilateral relations, especially those relating to the Taiwan question.

Tang was speaking to Samuel Berger, a former national security adviser to the president of the United States under Bill Clinton.

He said the Chinese Government adheres to the basic principles of "peaceful reunification'' and "one country, two systems.'' It will try its best "with the utmost sincerity'' to realize peaceful reunification, he added.

However, the Taiwan authorities have not yet accepted the one-China principle and have spared no effort in carrying out separatist activities both inside and outside Taiwan, Tang said.

He expressed the hope that the United States would honour the commitment it made that it would abide by the one-China policy, stop selling advanced weapons to Taiwan and stop raising the level of US-Taiwan relations. Tang said he hoped Washington would not encourage Taiwan separatists in their attempts to split China.Berger said he understood the sensitivity of the Taiwan question and supported the one-China policy.

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