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US actions spur on Taiwan separatists
( 2003-12-03 01:02) (China Daily)

The Taiwan question is nothing else but a question of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The upgrading of US-Taiwan military co-operation seriously threatens China's sovereignty.

According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, ROCSAT-2, the island's research satellite which can also be used for military purpose, was scheduled to be transported yesterday to the United States for launch. The French-made satellite will undergo a series of tests before it is launched in Vandenburg Air Force Base in California on January 17, 2004. The island's first fully-owned science satellite ROCSAT-1 went into orbit also from a US launch pad in January 1999.

Moreover, Taiwan's military reportedly plans to hold large-scale negotiations on military co-operation with the United States in Washington from December 5-20 to beef up its deterrent forces to safeguard its security in face of "military crisis.''

The latest uproar has served as one of a string of moves by the island to strengthen its military collaboration with the United States. The United States has always broken its word to China by expanding military co-operation with Taiwan, which simply encourages the island's separatists. Despite its explicit commitment made in the three Sino-US communiques, over the paste decades the United States has never severed its military connections with Taipei. It has gone even further now at a time when the island's separatist forces led by Chen Shui-bian have been seeking independence more boldly and overtly than ever before.

The Taiwan authorities' feverish fantasy of independence would not have run so rampant without US connivance.

Taiwan would not have become a question at all had the United States not intervened.

The United States perceives Taiwan as its "unsinkable aircraft carrier'' in the Asia-Pacific.

Neither its claims to adhere to the one-China policy nor its upgrading military co-operation with the island has gone beyond Washington's traditional strategic thinking regarding the Taiwan question.

Neither a united China nor a war across the Taiwan Straits fits in with the US perception of its own interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

The mainland has made it crystal clear it would not use force unless the island declares independence or foreign intervention takes place.

It is fully justifiable for a country to defend itself when its territorial integrity is threatened.

***กกTaiwan bill threatens Strait stability

The ostensible absence of clauses legitimizing referenda on such issues as independence, as well as a name and flag change in the referendum bill Taiwan's "parliament" passed late Thursday night, saved the island an immediate showdown with the mainland.

Days back, authorities both in Taipei and Beijing had almost pushed themselves into a corner where they had to either risk the worst consequences or eat their words and lose credibility.

Given the smothering tension across the Taiwan Straits in the run-up to the vote, many who had prayed against the worst scenario may feel relieved for the seeming diffusion of a tick-tocking time bomb.

The Taiwan "parliament" or "legislative yuan" did not cross the redline Beijing had drawn. The most provocative clauses in the draft bills presented by pro-independence camps, which qualify for Beijing's definition as "a referendum law without restrictions" deserving "strong reactions," ran aground during legislative scrutiny.

The outcome was read as an overwhelming triumph by the opposition camp, most noticeably the Nationalist and People First parties.

But reality did not allow the optimism to linger long.

On Saturday, less than 48 hours afterwards, "president" Chen Shui-bian showed us how different the same outcome could be if read otherwise.

"The fact that the referendum bill is passed - even though the approved version is unacceptable to us - shows we have succeeded in introducing the referendum's idea, belief, and universal value to the people..." Chen said.

That the vote happened at all, and earlier than had been anticipated, was a success for Chen's Democratic Progressive Party in the sense that it was a direct result of the opposition parties' half-way retreat.

The Nationalist and People First parties, who had staunchly opposed the idea of a law that may acquiesce independence referenda, changed course in early November in a hope to re-focus their debates with the ruling DPP in the island's "presidential" campaign.

But their wish to put yolks on Chen Shui-bian with a referendum law of their own creation has proved naive.

Beneath its apparently milder surface, the passed referendum bill is full of pitfalls.

Unlike extremist drafts allowing referenda on whether the island should make a new "constitution," the approved version says a referendum may be held over revisions of the existing "constitution."

Depending on interpretation, distinctions between a new "constitution" and a revised one can be substantial or nominal.

Likewise, inclusion of the so-called "defensive referendum," the only major clause drawn from the independence-leaning drafts, allows authorities to hold a referendum on independence when the island's "sovereignty" is under threat. If this simply implies Taiwan would not attempt for independence unless militarily attacked, then eternal peace is expectable across the Straits, considering the mainland's consistent stance that the military option is reserved only for Taiwan's independence attempts.

Like many of the Taiwan authorities' previous promises, especially those of "president" Chen's, however, the bill, though in the form of law, should not be taken for granted.

Its lack of definition of the "threat" gives independence referendum advocates full latitude to determine what constitutes a threat.

Chen Shui-bian has been playing hide-and-seek with the mainland. He certainly does not read the bill as well-wishers do.

"On March 20 next year, we can hold a referendum to safeguard national sovereignty, to defend national security," Chen told a campaign rally on Saturday. March 20 is the island's general election day.

In his words, threat, the premise for independence referenda, is a reality rather than a possibility.

"Facing an external threat is a present tense for Taiwan, the country's sovereignty may be altered any time," he claimed.

Given "president" Chen's habit of "thief crying thief" and his ability to feign innocence, he may provoke the mainland and ask for "threats" even if no such threat exists.

If even that does not work, he could pre-empt.

"A defensive referendum is defensive in nature," he said. "If we wait until the Communists attack, it will be too late. There will be no need to hold a referendum."

Following such logic, there is no reason for Taiwan not to hold an independence referendum.

For the endorsement of the "defensive referendum" alone, the referendum bill has opened a Pandora's box which promises unfathomable destructive potentials.

It has offered a legal platform for the island's separatist elements and sowed new seeds of uncertainty in relations across the Taiwan Straits.

Pressed by "president" Chen Shui-bian's increasingly provocative stunts, the mainland will have to prepare for that seemingly inevitable moment of truth.

If a remote foreign country could say it was ready to do whatever it takes to protect Taiwan, there is no excuse for China not to ready itself for any highest possible prices in safeguarding its own territorial integrity.

The political reality on the mainland is that no leaders could afford to lose Taiwan even if they could not achieve the long-cherished goal of reunification.

Unlike in previous confrontations, in anxious anticipation of Thursday's vote results, most people on the mainland shared the consensus that once Taiwan breaks the bottom line, Beijing would have to match its tough rhetoric with an iron fist this time around.

In this sense, Thursday's vote had only re-set the time bomb, instead of defusing it.

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