President Lee: "Taiwan is independent"

Moves closer to position of democratic opposition

Washington, 10 November 1997

On Friday, 7 November 1997, in separate interviews with two major international newspapers, Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui moved significantly closer to the position traditionally taken by the democratic opposition on the island, by declaring that Taiwan is "an independent, sovereign nation."

The first interview was given to Washington Post reporter Keith B. Richburg, and published by the Post in a frontpage article on Saturday, 8 November 1997 under the title: "Leader asserts Taiwan is 'independent, sovereign."

The second interview was given to Jonathan Mirsky of the London Times, and published in the Times on Monday, 10 November 1997, in an article titled: "President declares Taiwan 'free of Beijing."

The interviews generated considerable interest both internationally and in Taiwan itself: it is the first time that President Lee has expressed himself so openly in favor of independence.

The move also received support in the U.S. Congress: Representative Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote in a "dear Colleague" letter dated 12 November 1997:

"I commend to your attention the attached article by Keith Richburg in this past Saturday's Washington Post, entitled "Leader Asserts Taiwan is Independent, Sovereign". In the story, Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui states in no uncertain terms that his government and his people view their island nation as an independent entity.

The people of Taiwan have worked long and hard to establish a thriving democracy. The world should respect their views on the issue of self-determination, and if that wish is international recognition of Taiwan's status as separate from China, then the United States, as the leader of the free world should support this position.

Please take a few minutes to read this important piece,


Sherrod Brown

Member of Congress

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