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President Chen Shui-bian
When Taiwan’s newly-elected President Chen Shui-bian gave his first
press conference one month after he was inaugurated, he said, “If South
and North Korea can do it, why can’t both sides of the Taiwan strip do
His question was an outstretched hand of friendship to China in
response to an historical moment between the two Korean leaders. On
June 13, the Korean peninsula made front-page headlines in papers around
the world when South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung met his North Korean
counterpart, Mr. Kim Jong Il, in an airport. The two men made history
when they shook hands in a gesture of peace.
The leaders of both sides of Korea used their intelligence and
creativity to accomplish what seemed like an impossible mission.
Taiwan’s President Chen said he would hang a picture of that
handshake in his study in order to challenge and encourage himself to
follow the Koreans’ example.
In his press conference, Chen expressed his belief that China and
Taiwan are also able to create an historical hand shake moment. Leaders
of both sides of the Taiwan strip can sit down, peacefully shake hands
and negotiate anywhere at any time without any prerequisites.
China has said it will not discuss any subject with Taiwan until the
island complies with the communist nation’s “One China” policy — a
unified country of all Chinese people.
But President Chen said the two nations must “agree to disagree.”
I, Johnny Chung, know that the Taiwanese people are Chinese by race,
but their nationality is Taiwanese. China can remain united — as
opposed to Korea, which is divided between the north and south — but
Taiwan is a separate and independent nation. I know how the Taiwanese
people think. I was born there.
With sincerely and friendly intentions, Chen said he wants to come to
a conclusion that will be accepted by both sides on the “One China”
policy. He used North and South Korea as an example, saying the two
countries were able to meet peacefully because of three conditions: both
sides now have new leaders, North Korea is very stable politically, and
the international environment is one in which most people of the world
The time was ripe for a handshake of compromise in the Korean
peninsula, and it can be in the Taiwan strip as well. The world wants
peace. It wants negotiations, not war.
Chen is trying to say, “Let’s sit down and talk. The timing is
right.” He is willing to sit down with a humble and sincere attitude
with the 73-year-old president of the People’s Republic of China to
“Let’s make history together,” Chen is pleading. He even said Taiwan
will support Beijing’s bid for 2008 Olympic games and would like to act
as co-host. Remember, Beijing lost its bid for the 2000 games to Sydney
by just one vote — Taiwan’s. His gesture is one of reconciliation.
After Chen gave his summit proposal at the press conference, he was
given the cold shoulder from Chinese leaders. China’s foreign ministry
spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, held his own press conference in which he
repeatedly mentioned Beijing’s long-standing policy that Taiwan embrace
the “One China” principle before any talks begin.
“We demand that Taiwan’s leader recognize the principle that there is
one China, and Taiwan is part of China,” Zhu said. “Under this
pre-condition, anything can be discussed.”
Zhu did not accept Chen’s comparison of the Korean peninsula to the
Taiwanese strip. The situation in the Korean peninsula today is a result
of the Second World War, and the situation on both sides of the Taiwan
strip is the result of continued civil war. They are different, he
China will resolve its “civil war” by itself, either by force or
through continual harassment. Zhu maintained that China will never give
up on its “One China” policy, and that Chinese leaders have already done
“whatever we can” to resolve the Taiwan issue.
The Chinese can deal with Taiwan by themselves, he continued.
Outsiders have no right to get involved. In fact, the United States
should also accept the “One China” policy and stop selling arms to
Taiwan, as well as any kind of official contact with Taiwan.
Obviously, Taiwan’s friendly attitude toward China was not
An anonymous official in the U.S. State Department reacted to the
press conferences, saying both sides of the Taiwan strip must negotiate
to find a compromise definition of “One China.” Only then can the two
parties have real negotiations — not just a war of words.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is now finishing up a
two-day visit to Beijing, is to have meetings with China’s President
Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji.
The official’s statement regarding the war of words over “One China”
reveals that this administration is leaning more toward China in the
dispute. When reporters asked him what role the U.S. will play in
negotiations, the official said the U.S. will not be a go-between and
will not directly or indirectly join the discussion over “One China.”
He said that asking the U.S. to be a go-between is “not realistic.”
But Chen has not asked America to be a go-between. What he wants is
some strategic back-up in the event China decides to take Taiwan by
Every time President Clinton talks about the China and Taiwan issue,
he says the leaders should sit down and talk things out peacefully. But
he does not understand that the resolution of this issue is not in the
hands of the Taiwanese people. It’s not a matter of negotiations when
it comes to Taiwanese independence. China will not negotiate: It’s
their way or the highway.
Everything depends on what the Taiwanese people decide to do about
the situation — will they fight for their independence, will they
submit to Chinese rule or will they continue to sit and wait?
It is clear that the Taiwanese people want independence, and their
decision should be respected. But it is difficult for a tiny island
nation to stand up and declare their independence to a communist giant
that has troops and artillery waiting at the shoreline.
The U.S. has an existing military presence in the Pacific. We need
to stand up and say that we will support Taiwan. That’s all the country
wants. It just needs reassurance so it can decide its fate without fear
President Clinton, I encourage you to support and defend Taiwan. You
have come to the aid of so many other nations during your term as
president, yet you keep your distance from Taiwan. Mr. President, the
Taiwanese people are no different from another small nation that fought
for its independence 200 years ago.
For once, do the right thing. Help these people secure their freedom