New Taiwan President Cites Possibility of Reunification

Article excerpt

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) -- Taiwan's new President Chen Shuibian yesterday held out the possibility of a ''future One China'' incorporating Taiwan and the mainland, in a dramatic concession to Beijing.

Chen, who took office earlier in the day, vowed in his inaugural address not to carry through his pre-election vow to move the island towards formal independence from the mainland unless China tried to force reunification by invading.

He also acknowledged a common cultural and spiritual history.

In the run up to his election on March 18, Beijing threatened war if the island chose to formally break away from China in a campaign aimed at Chen and his separatist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

It has claimed Taiwan as a part of China since Chinese nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island and split it from the mainland after their defeat by Mao Zedong's communists at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan's status has remained uncertain ever since, neither formally independent nor in practice under communist control.

But as Taiwan's military maintained a state of "heightened alert," Chen used his address and the occasion of the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Chinese history to emphatically distance the government from his pre-election separatism.

"The people across the Taiwan Strait share the same ancestral, cultural, and historical background," said the former dissident, who, along with several members of his cabinet, was jailed under the totalitarian nationalist regime of Chiang's Kuomintang.

"While upholding the principles of democracy and parity, building upon the existing foundations, and constructing conditions for cooperation through goodwill, we believe that the leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future 'One China'."

Analysts in Taipei said that, relying heavily on nuance, Chen was in effect raising the possibility of a communist China and a democratic Taiwan existing side by side as part of a greater Chinese nation.

Chen also said he would retain the former ruling Kuomintang party's guidelines on reuniting a greater China.

And the new president said he would not incorporate his predecessor Lee Teng-hui's proposal of relations on a "state to state" basis into the constitution or change Taiwan's formal name from the Republic of China.

Citing Taiwan's security, he added: "As long as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) regime has no intention to use military force against Taiwan, I pledge that during my term in office, I will not declare independence, I will not change the national title, I will not push forth the inclusion of the so-called 'state-to-state' description in the constitution, and I will not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or unification."

Taipei's stock market plunged 4. …