Beijing: Chen Shui-bian may cause Straits conflict
A cross-Straits military conflict before 2008 cannot be ruled out if Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian continues to push hard for his pro-independence timetable, a senior Taiwan affairs official warned Thursday.
Wang Zaixi, vice-minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, also said the current cross-Straits political stalemate will remain during Chen's controversial second term unless the leader accepts the one-China principle.
In an interview with China Daily, he said the biggest threat to cross-Straits peace and stability comes from Chen's plan to write a new "constitution" through referendum in 2006 and enact the document in 2008.
Chen has not substantially changed his separatist scheme although he used the term of "constitutional re-engineering" in his May 20 inauguration speech to cover up his plot to promote formal independence for the island, according to Wang.
"New tensions may arise and even a serious crisis in the cross-Straits situation, if Chen obstinately pursues his timetable," the official said at the sideline of a seminar on cross-Straits ties.
"We cannot completely rule out the possibility (of a military conflict) though it is not at all what we hope for."
Beijing has stood for a peaceful reunification between Taiwan and the mainland while not committing itself to foregoing the use of force in case of the island declaring independence.
Wang, however, stressed that Beijing has been making great efforts to reduce the possibility of a military conflict by containing splittist activities.
The official was attending the two-day seminar, which ended Thursday with a call from more than 200 participants for closer economic and trade exchanges between Taiwan and the mainland.
As for political relations across the Straits, the vice-minister said "it will be hard for both sides to break the present political stalemate in the short term."
That's because Chen's failure to embrace the one-China principle means an absence of political basis for the two sides to resume talks and improve bilateral relations.
Since taking power in May 2000, Chen has refused to embrace the one-China principle that both Taiwan and the mainland are part of China.
Beijing, however, insists on the principle as the precondition for jump-starting cross-Straits negotiation, which broke off in 1999 when former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui said the cross-Straits relationship should be state-to-state.
"There will be no way for us to break the ice in political ties in the coming four years (of Chen's second term) unless Chen returns to the one-China principle," Wang said. "What we can do is just work hard to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating."
The vice-minister called it an "unwise move" for Taipei to engage in military build-up through huge purchases of advanced weapons from the United States.
The island's arms build-up will not only jeopardize cross-Straits relations but also hurt the immediate benefits of Taiwan compatriots, he said.
Taiwan is planning a controversial special budget of 610 billion Taiwan dollars (US$18.2 billion) to buy advanced weaponry, including eight conventional submarines, modified Patriot anti-missile systems and anti-submarine aircraft, over a 15-year period from 2005.
"The security of Taiwan depends on how Chen deals with the one-China principle rather than buying more aircraft and missiles for the island," Wang said, adding that the more arms Taiwan buys, the bigger the danger it will face.