Reuters News Report


Taiwan Urges U.S. to Speak Against China anti-secession Law

By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should intensify its opposition to China's proposed anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan because "quiet diplomacy" would not resolve the volatile issue, according to a senior Taipei official.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan's top official for China-Taiwan affairs, told Reuters in an interview late Monday, there may be no way to stop Beijing from enacting the law, which Taiwan and U.S. officials say will inflame cross-straits tensions.

The proposed anti-secession law is seen by analysts as a Chinese effort to head off a formal declaration of independence by the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a province.

Senior U.S. officials privately describe the proposed law as a threat to regional peace but have said little in public.

U.S. officials have argued that they could exert more influence on Beijing through "quiet diplomacy" and that they want to see the text of the law before speaking out, Wu said.

In Taiwan, "we are quite afraid that if they (Americans) don't make public opposition to the law by the time the (the specific text of the law is published), it may be too late already," Wu said.

"If you look at the concept of the law it's really very provocative. So we tried to relay our position and our worries to the American side," he added.

Wu, chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, was in Washington to attend President Bush's inauguration and hold talks -- mainly on the anti-secession law -- with administration officials and American scholars on China.

Even though the United States pledges to help Taiwan defend itself, the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. While their officials occasionally meet, there is agreement not to provide many details of discussions.

Wu described the law as Beijing's attempt to unilaterally change the status quo between the two cross-Straits rivals and to taunt Taiwan into taking countermeasures, which he insisted "are not on the agenda at this moment."

But, he added: "I think the U.S. administration or the United States in general, including friends in Congress and thinktanks, need to express in a clear way about their opposition to the anti-secession law."

Chinese authorities are expected to take up the law at the National Peoples' Congress in March and seem increasingly determined to enact it, Wu said.

Still, he said, "we are trying to see if we can reverse the Chinese decision to enact the law (by having the proposal sent first to committee for an extended period) so we have sufficient time to turn things around."

In the interview, Wu was optimistic that an alliance between President Chen Shui-bien's Democratic Progressive Party and James Soong's People First Party would enable passage in the legislative session beginning Feb. 15 of a special budget that would include $15 billion to buy U.S.-provided new weapons.

The Bush administration has encouraged Taiwan to approve funding for the arms package, which Taipei says is needed to defend against a major Chinese arms buildup.