Top US official questions motives behind referendum plans
( 2004-01-31 14:39) (chinadaily.com.cn/agencies)
Deputy US Secretary of State Richard Armitage criticized Taiwan's plans for a referendum on relations with Chinese mainland, saying it raises questions about the motives behind the plebiscite's backers.
"I think it raises some questions about the motives of those who want to put it forward," he told reporters in Beijing after meetings with Chinese leaders.
"The position of the United States on this is that we're studying this very carefully and it's not just the written words that would be in front of one on the paper, but it's the context of them and how they're used domestically," he said.
He characterized the situation as "very fluid" and said the United States is "opposed to any unilateral action which alters the status quo by either side."
In the Taiwan referendum, which will take place in March at the same time as "presidential elections", voters will be asked about beefing up the island's defenses.
"As much as we respect Taiwan's democracy, the referendum in question does raise some questions," Armitage said.
"As I understand it, referenda are generally reserved for items or issues which are either very divisive or very difficult. And the wording I've seen of the referendum seems to be neither divisive nor difficult," he said.
Meeting with leaders
Armitage arrived in China on Thursday for talks on the North Korea nuclear issues and Iraq reconstruction.
During his stay, he met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Friday in Beijing.
The two sides exchange views on Sino-US relations and issues of mutual interest.
Armitage also had separate meetings Friday with vice-foreign ministers Dai Bingguo and Zhou Wenzhong, on bilateral ties, the Taiwan question, and the Korean nuclear issue.
According to an official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the two sides made positive remarks on the development of Sino-US ties over the past year, in particular the results achieved during the meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush and Premier Wen's meeting with President Bush on his US trip.
Both sides hold that a strong China-US relations conforms to the interests of the two countries and is crucial to the world peace and prosperity, the official said.
The Chinese side reiterated its principled stance on the Taiwan issue, he said. China underlines that the Chinese government adheres to the basic guideline of "peaceful reunification", and "One Country, Two Systems" and is willing to strive for a prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and endeavor.
"We firmly opposes the Taiwan authorities to carry out activities of Taiwan independence by using the so-called referendum and we will allow no one to split Taiwan from China by any means," said the official.
Armitage said the US side understands the importance and sensitivity of the Taiwan issue.
On the question of referendum, he said, President Bush clearly expressed the US position during Premier Wen's US trip last December and such stance of the US side has not been altered.
The US side adheres to the one-China policy, observe the three China-US joint communiques, gives no support to Taiwan independence and opposes any rhetoric or actions that will unilaterally change the status of Taiwan, he reaffirmed.
On the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, both sides agree to maintain close communication and cooperation and endeavor to restart the second-round of Beijing six-party talks at an early date with tangible results.
Armitage also met Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan Friday afternoon. He is scheduled to leave China on Saturday.
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