Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taiwan Leader's Speech Upsets China New President Accused of Dodging Reunification Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taiwan Leader's Speech Upsets China New President Accused of Dodging Reunification Issue

Article excerpt

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's new leader disappointed Chinese leaders and jittery investors yesterday with his first big speech -- an inaugural address that gently rebuffed Beijing's demands that he agree that this island is part of China.

Beijing quickly accused President Chen Shui-bian of being evasive. In Taiwan, the political uncertainties took a toll on financial markets. Stocks plunged more than 3 percent amid worries the speech wouldn't create a long-desired breakthrough with the neighboring Communist behemoth.

Chen's inauguration caps a period during which the question of Taiwan's status has been particularly prominent. Since his election victory two months ago, Beijing has been insisting almost daily that the former Taipei mayor agree that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

A civil war split the two sides 51 years ago, and one of Beijing's greatest fears is that Taiwan will refuse to reunify and seek independence. China has repeatedly warned that such a move would spark a war, which could involve Taiwan's closest friend and most likely defender, the United States.

Reunifying with an impoverished China ruled by a repressive regime never has appealed to the Taiwanese, who have built a democracy with a thriving economy.

Speaking to thousands outside the Presidential Palace, Chen repeated his campaign promise not to declare independence as long as China "has no intention to use military force against Taiwan." But Chen made only a passing reference to Beijing's insistence that he agree that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China -- a concept known as the "one-China principle."

The new president complains that the notion is vague and the two sides should discuss it, while Chinese leaders say they won't meet with Chen until he embraces the principle.

"We believe that the leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future 'one China,' " Chen said yesterday. …

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