Mayor Chen goes to Washington

Washington, 17 March 1998

Chen Shui-bian From 17-19 March 1998, Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian visited Washington, meeting with members of Congress, US government officials, representatives from various think-tanks and the press.

He emphasized during the visit that the people of Taiwan have the right to determine their own future, and urged the United States to continue its support of the newly democratic island, certainly if China again threatens to attack Taiwan.

The first mayor of Taipei from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to visit Washington, Mr. Chen also said in his speeches that the Taiwan issue is not an internal problem -- as the PRC usually claims -- but an international issue with important ramifications for stability in East Asia.

Mayor Chen, widely regarded as a potential DPP candidate for the 2000 presidential election, pointed out that the people of a democratic country are entitled to decide on their own the future of their country and to choose their way of life. "I think any country which deems Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China has not listened to the voice of the people of Taiwan," the lawyer turned politician observed.

Noting that the United States is a nation which holds democratic principles high, Mayor Chen said he is convinced that it will respect and accept any decision reached by the people of other countries through democratic procedures. The charismatic mayor further said he doesn't think it is in the US interest if China uses military force to attack Taiwan again and disrupt stability in East Asia.

Mr. Chen also rejected the views of former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye, who advocated in a recent article in the Washington Post that the United States should somehow make a three-way deal in which Taiwan would give up its independence in exchange for some vague Chinese promises to leave Taiwan some international breathing space.

US government officials and former officials -- most recently Mr. Anthony Lake during a visit to Taiwan -- emphasized that Mr. Nye's opinions do not reflect US government policy.

Mr. Chen said he was aware of Nye's viewpoints, but was assured that Nye's article only reflects his personal opinion and doesn't represent the official US policy. "During my talks with many American scholars, experts and politicians, I have never heard opinions similar to Nye's," Chen said. He added that the proposals conflicted both with the basic principles of human rights and self-determination, as well as with the "six assurances" the United States gave to Taiwan in 1982 when Washington signed the so-called "August 17" joint communiqué with China.

Those six assurances include promises that the United States will neither set a deadline for arms sales to Taiwan nor consult in advance with Beijing on such deals with Taiwan; it will not act as a go-between for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait; it will not revise the Taiwan Relations Act; it will not change its stance on the issue concerning Taiwan's sovereignty; and it will not pressure Taiwan to negotiate with mainland China.

Asked about whether he thinks Washington has set any limits or conditions on its commitment to Taiwan's security, Chen said that to his knowledge, the US stance on the 1982 "six assurances" has remained unchanged.

Chen, the brightest star from the opposition camp, also said the DPP hopes that the United States will upgrade cooperation with Taiwan in satellite defense systems. But he didn't elaborate. On economic relations across the Taiwan Strait, Chen said if the DPP comes to power, it will consider levying a "national security tax" on Taiwan companies which have invested in mainland China and that the tax rate will depend on Beijing's attitude toward Taipei. "We'll also push enterprises controlled by the ruling Kuomintang to privatize and adopt measures to reduce our trade surplus with the United States if our party takes the helm," he added.

During his visit, Mayor Chen attended a Heritage Foundation-sponsored lunch meeting where he exchanged views with several American China hands and close aides of some US congressional members on Taiwan's latest political developments and cross-strait relations. He also paid a visit to the Atlantic Council, also a private think tank.

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