2004-12-02 00:00:00
American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
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E.O. 12958: N/A

A) "The Actual Situation Regarding the Timeline for
[Taiwan's] New Constitution and an Evaluation of Its
External Effects"

The centrist, pro-status quo "China Times" observed in
its editorial (12/1):

". We don't know if President Chen's clarification
[regarding his plan to hold a referendum on a new
constitution in 2006] can really eliminate Washington's
worry that Taiwan will have a new constitution in the
next few years. But from [State Department Spokesman]
Richard Boucher's remarks [Monday] . and the previous
statement by a U.S. official that the status quo of the
Taiwan Strait should be defined by the United States,
[it is evident that] the United States cannot be rid of
its doubts about Taiwan's intention to unilaterally
change the status quo just because Chen argues that it
agrees with Taiwan's constitutional procedures to hold
a referendum on the new constitution. Or to borrow
Chen's words, what the United States cares about is not
the argument about whether it is constitutional to hold
such a referendum but whether the unilateral move by
Taiwan will cause substantive changes to the status quo
in the Taiwan Strait, a development that would give
Beijing an excuse to adopt radical actions to force the
United States to get involved in the unpredictable
disputes across the Taiwan Strait."

"Objectively speaking, Washington's doubts are
reasonable because its intention is try to prevent
anything from happening between the two sides of the
Taiwan Strait. But since the United States is reacting
like this, it is expected that Beijing will react more
strongly in the regular press briefing by China's
Taiwan Affairs Office today. President Chen's remarks,
judged from Beijing's perspective, have actually proved
his consistent position from de jure Taiwan
independence to substantive Taiwan independence.
Especially in the face of such a timetable for ... the
new constitution, Beijing may be forced, in response,
to talk about the timeline for reunification or even
upgrading its military readiness to use force to stop
Taiwan from moving toward independence."

B) "Chen Shui-bian Is Exhausting the U.S. Trust in Him"

Journalist Chang Hui-ying wrote in the centrist, pro-
status quo "China Times" (12/1):

". No one will trust the positive comments you make if
you have gone back on your word too many times. Only
the negative ones will be heard. The consequences will
be the using up of one's credibility and the
disqualification of one's privilege to make good-will
promises. It is because any good-will gesture will not
be trusted. As a result, there will be no space for
policy [flexibility], and one [Chen] has to live on
extremist remarks.

"The United States has obviously shortened
significantly the `time span of its trust' toward
Taiwan. In the past, Chen Shui-bian would have to have
overstepped the bounds several times before the United
States noticed. But now every step or move by him is
closely watched all the time. Whenever he says
something, he is asked to explain. There is no time
lag to play with. However, at least for the time
being, Chen Shui-bian has not been intimidated by the
United States. After all, there is still the ... lag
between U.S. pressure and Taiwan's elections."

C) "It Is Not in the United States' Interests to Strike
Taiwan in Order to Pacify China"

A commentary by Tsou Jiin-wen in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" said (12/1):

"The U.S. Department of State is speaking again. The
tone being heard this time by the people of Taiwan is
entirely different from the feeling they had before the
U.S. general elections. Before the elections, the
Taiwan people were more understanding toward the
offending but honest comments made by the superpower
ally. But after President Bush's re-election, many
Taiwan people would like to say: please, my old friend,
don't treat Taiwan's dignity as if it were nothing.

"Taiwan is already a completely democratic nation. Its
people are absolutely entitled to decide what is a
modern constitution that meets the demands of the time.
They also have the wisdom to calculate and bear the
consequences of their choices. There is no need for a
foreign spokesperson to openly call on Taiwan's head of
state by name and ask him to provide `an explanation.'

"There is no room for dictatorship in Taiwan anymore.
Even if a president has promised something by himself,
the promise does not mean anything unless the people of
Taiwan approve it.

". [If the United States treats Taiwan] using selective
democratic standards and conditional justice, it is not
impossible that the advocacy for a peaceful takeover by
China will win the upper hand when Taiwan is pushed
into a corner. By that time where will the U.S.
interest lie? ."

D) "Chen Is Required by U.S. to Clarify Referendum

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" editorialized (12/1):

"President Chen Shui-bian's credibility was questioned
once again yesterday by Washington when a State
Department spokesman demanded that the Taipei leader
clarified (sic) his recent remarks about his intention
to hold a referendum on a new Constitution for Taiwan
in 2006. .

"Here in Taipei, Chen was quick to deny that his latest
take about holding a referendum to decide a new
Constitution in 2006 has violated his past promises.
But the fact is that Chen indeed contradicted the
remarks he had made in May this year when he assumed
office to begin his second term.

"In that inaugural speech, Chen explicitly pledged that
his constitutional 're-engineering' project would be
achieved in accordance with the 'existing
constitutional procedures.' That is, the reform
project would be first passed by the Legislature and
then ratified by an ad hoc National Assembly. Beyond
that, he didn't say anything about conducting a popular
vote in 2006 to adopt a new Constitution. .

"Chen must have anticipated that his remarks could
provoke Washington and Beijing, earning him charges of
breaking his important political promises. But
obviously he must also have calculated that at this
point in time nothing counts more than the need for him
to win a stable majority in the Legislature in next
week's elections.

"It's really unfortunate that we should have a leader
who would not hesitate to do anything for the good of
his and his party's political interests even if this
would mean jeopardizing the security of Taiwan and its