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Chen rules out call for independence

BEIJING, MAY 20. In a bid to defuse the tense relations with Beijing, Taiwan's new President, Mr. Chen Shui-bian today pledged not to declare the island independent as long as communist China did not invade.

``As long as the Chinese Communist party regime has no intention to use military force against Taiwan, I pledge that during my term in office I will not declare independence,'' Mr. Chen said in his 50-minute speech soon after being sworn in as President, replacing Mr. Lee Teng-Hui, 77, Taiwan's first popularly elected leader. China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland at an early date. Beijing has repeatedly threatened to retake the island if Taiwanese authorities declared independence.

``I will not change the national title. I will not push forth the inclusion of the so called `State-to-State'' description in the Constitution. And I will not promote a referendum to change the status quo with regards to the question of independence or unification,'' Mr. Chen said after taking office in Taiwan's first democratic transfer of power. Furthermore, the abolition of the National Reunification Council or the national reunification guidelines would not be an issue, Mr. Chen said.

Mr. Chen said he believed the leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future ``One China''. But he ignored the key Chinese demand to clearly state that Taiwan is an inseparable part of ``One China''. Analysts say Mr. Chen refused to accept the ``One China'' principle fearing that it would mean surrendering Taiwan's sovereignty to the authoritarian communist regime in Beijing.

Mr. Chen, who belongs to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected President on March 18. His victory ended the ruling Kuomintang Nationalist party's reign of 50 years. In the face of repeated threats from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), Taiwan's 400,000-strong armed forces were placed on a standard state of heightened alertness.

Lacks sincerity, says China

China today said Mr. Chen lacked sincerity by refusing to accept the ``One-China'' principle for national reunification talks in his inauguration speech earlier in the day. The ``goodwill reconciliation'' mentioned by the new leader in his speech delivered today was short of sincerity, the ruling Communist party of China as well as the Chinese Government said in a joint statement.

To accept the ``One-China principle or not is the touchstone to test whether the Taiwan leader will safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity or continue to stubbornly pursue the separatist policy of ``Taiwan independence,'' the statement said while noting that Mr. Chen failed to address the key issue of accepting the ``One-China'' principle. The statement said Mr. Chen adopted an evasive and ambiguous attitude on the ``One-China'' principle.

``Obviously, his `goodwill reconciliation' lacks sincerity,'' the seemingly mild statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency said. The ``One-China principle is the basis for peaceful, steady development of a cross-strait relations, the statement emphasised. ``Since the new leader of the Taiwan authorities expressed that he would not go in for `Taiwan independence', he should have attached no condition to it.


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