In explicit and unambiguous language, Washington has reiterated its opposition to Taiwan authorities' push for a proposed referendum on UN membership, calling it an "unnecessary and unproductive provocation" and a step "intended to change the status quo".
Thomas J. Christensen. [www.state.gov]
Thomas J. Christensen, US deputy assistant secretary of state, said he felt it was the US' obligation to warn that the content of the referendum is "ill-conceived and potentially quite harmful".
"Bad public policy initiatives are made no better for being wrapped in the flag of 'democracy'," he noted.
Christensen, who is in charge of East Asia and Pacific affairs, made the remarks on Tuesday while addressing the concluding session of a three-day US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Maryland.
Stressing that his comments represented the agreed views of the US government, Christensen said the island's recent activities strike Washington as "odd and unproductive".
"For the United States' part, the matter of how to respond would be straightforward: We would reiterate that we do not support Taiwan's membership in international organizations that require statehood, and therefore would not support such a referendum."
He noted that supporters of the referendum make it seem that they do not take seriously Taiwan's commitments to the US and the international community, and "are willing to ignore the security interests of Taiwan's most steadfast friend, and are ready to put at some risk the security interests of the Taiwan people for short-term political gain".
"Our bottom line is that the potential downsides of such an initiative for Taiwan and US interests are potentially large, and, as with any UN referendum, the benefits for Taiwan's international status are non-existent, so we must oppose such an initiative strongly."
Forestalling any possible criticism that the US position on the referendum constitutes interference in Taiwan's affairs, Christensen said "the idea just does not stand up to scrutiny".
"Friends have an obligation to warn friends who are moving in an unwise direction After all, it is not just Taiwan's peace and stability that Taipei's actions may threaten."
In case the referendum were to go forward unchanged, He expressed hope that "Taiwan's perceptive, intelligent citizens will see through the rhetoric and make a sound judgment that the referendum does not serve their interests because it will be fundamentally harmful to Taiwan's external relations".
Warning of the consequences, Christensen said: "Frontal assaults on Beijing's sensitivities are bound to fail. The referendum on applying to the UN under the name Taiwan is just such a frontal assault with no hope of changing Taiwan's actual status on the international stage while increasing cross-Strait tensions."
Explaining why he had to express publicly the "disagreement with the Chen (Shui-bian) administration", he said: "I can assure you that we would not have done so had we not exhausted every private opportunity through consistent, unmistakable, and authoritative messages over an extended period of time.
"The problem here is not misunderstanding or lack of communication: It is that we believe this initiative is not good for Taiwan or us and that we have found ourselves with no alternative but to express our views directly to the Taiwan people."
Concluding his speech, he said: "Let me be perfectly clear: We do not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, and we do not accept the argument that provocative assertions of 'Taiwan independence' are in any way conducive to maintenance of the status quo or peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits."
Commenting on Christensen's remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said on Thursday that China hopes the United States will honor its commitment on the Taiwan question, and work with China to safeguard stability across the Taiwan Straits.