Reuters News Report


Taiwan differs with US on view of status quo

April 22, 2004

Reuters News report

TAIPEI - Taiwan's view of the political status quo with arch-foe China differs from that of the United States but the two share a common interest in maintaining stability in the region, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The remarks from Foreign Minister Mark Chen came after a warning from Washington against unilateral moves towards independence by an island China views as a rebel province.

The United States, which recognises Beijing but is Taipei's main arms supplier, is not opposed to change but wants any alterations to be peaceful and mutually agreed, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley said later on Thursday.

"The international community must understand that the so-called status quo in the Taiwan Strait is a dynamic equilibrium," Chen told reporters.

"The U.S. definition of the status quo may be slightly different from ours and it is the work of the foreign ministry to improve communication," he added, without elaborating.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian says he is the head of a sovereign state but keeps its official name as the Republic of China, thus retaining the appearance of being Chinese.

Taiwan has angered China with plans to write a new constitution to be put to a national vote in 2006 and implemented in 2008. Beijing fears the document will engineer a permanent split with the mainland and warned of war.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly on Wednesday urged the island to take China's threats of military retaliation seriously and reiterated that the United States does not support Taiwan independence.

Minister Chen said Washington sees the Taiwan-China issue in a global security context and desires regional stability while it deals with problems in Iraq, North Korea and a plan by the European Union to lift an arms embargo on China.

For Taiwan, relations with Beijing are matters of national security. Chen stressed both Taipei and Washington want to maintain regional peace and stability.

"The U.S. highly values security in the Taiwan Strait and we also highly value security in the Taiwan Strait," Chen said. "We are clear that the fundamental interests of Taiwan and the United States give us a symbiotic relationship."

Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Kau said Kelly's comments indicated no change in U.S. policy towards the island and Washington remained committed to selling weapons to Taipei to help it defend itself against China's military threat.

The U.S. House of Representatives had also voted to support Taiwan's annual push for observer status at the World Health Organisation's annual assembly in Geneva on May 17, he said.