Taiwan Proposes Controversial Vote on Chinese Missiles

Article excerpt

IN THE MIDST of a heated re-election campaign, Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has proposed a referendum demanding China end its deployment of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan. Washington and Beijing as well as rival Taiwanese politicians all oppose the first-time vote.

The proposed referendum is scheduled for March 20, which coincides with Taiwan's presidential election. According to Chen, the referendum would call upon China to end its deployment of nearly 500 ballistic missiles along its coast across from Taiwan and renounce the possible use of force against Taiwan.

China claims Taiwan is a renegade province that should be reunified with the mainland. Beijing routinely says it prefers peaceful reunification, but it always publicly reserves the right to resort to force, particularly if Taiwan declares independence.

After a Dec. 9 White House meeting with President George W. Bush, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing saw the proposed referendum as designed to "split Taiwan away from China." He added that "[s]uch separatist activities are what the Chinese side can absolutely not accept and tolerate." Wen did soften his tone somewhat by noting that, "so long as there is a glimmer of hope, we would not give up our efforts for peaceful reunification. …