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Support a democratic, sovereign Taiwan
Minneapolis- St. Paul Star Tribune, Jan. 17, 2004
Kenneth Lieberthal (Commentary, Jan. 12) indulged in the fallacy of catastrophic conclusions by predicting that "developments in Taiwan could drag the United States and China into armed conflict."
Chen Shui-bian, president of Taiwan, has upset the United States by proposing a national referendum calling upon China to dismantle its 496 missiles aimed at Taiwan and to disclaim its right to attack Taiwan by force. Articles 12 and 13 of Taiwan's Constitution authorize the government to call for referendums and to protect the security of Taiwan.
The United States has used referendums since the early 20th century. And it has held referendums on many issues including foreign policy. Historically, a referendum can refer to the creation of a law or policy, and need not be limited to a local or national issue. There is a absolutely no reason to believe that the strategy leading toward the March 20 referendum "could lead directly to unimaginable tragedy."
What opposition to the referendum could lead to are:
Lieberthal seems to forget two important issues:
It is China's refusal to negotiate with Taiwan, its military buildup and its attempt to isolate Taiwan internationally that has "blatantly" challenged the status quo. A "catastrophe" may occur if the United States abandons a democratic and sovereign society and causes both Washington and Taipei to kneel or kowtow to Beijing.
Richard Kagan, St. Paul, is a professor of history at Hamline University.