December 13th, 2007 06:48 EST
Taiwan Vote on U.N. Membership Troubling
Washington -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's plans to hold a referendum on U.N. membership for the island are very troubling, says Thomas Christensen, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
In remarks to the Taiwan press in Washington December 6, Christensen stressed the close relationship the United States has with Taiwan and what he sees as their mutual interest in fostering "stable and peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait."
According to Christensen, Taiwan's pursuit of U.N. membership would go
against Chen's inaugural promises not to pursue referendums on topics
related to unification with China or Taiwan's independence. Concern about China's reaction to the U.N. referendum has motivated recent U.S. criticism.
"We're opposed to unilateral moves to change the status quo by either side of the Taiwan Strait," Christensen said. "Anything that makes Taiwan stronger and safer is good for the United States and good for the people of Taiwan. Anything that places Taiwan's peace and stability at risk, on the other hand, also runs directly against the interests of the United States and ... against the interests of the people of Taiwan."
Christensen said the United States thinks the referendum is a force for
tension and instability. "Where tension and instability leads is difficult
to predict," he said. "But we think that, all things being equal, actors on
both sides of the Taiwan Strait should adopt policies that enhance and
foster peace and stability."
In addition to risking confrontation with China by associating U.N.
membership with independence for Taiwan, Christensen said the campaign is dangerous because it "seems to promise the people of Taiwan international benefits it cannot deliver."
He further cautioned that the referendum could "weaken rather than
strengthen the hand of those who believe that Taiwan deserves a stronger role in world affairs," a group he said includes the United States.
Christensen encouraged Taiwan and China to engage in their own dialogue, and he assured reporters that the United States is not co-managing Taiwan in partnership with Beijing.
"The U.S. government remains the steadfast partner of the people of Taiwan, as we have been for decades. ... It is not our purpose ... to dictate to Taiwan leaders or to the Taiwan people what they can or cannot do," he said. "Taiwan is a democracy. We celebrate Taiwan's democracy. But we believe that they ought to know where we stand, and they should make their decisions with that information on board."
A transcript ( http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2007/96691.htm ) of the press roundtable is available on the State Department Web site.