May 17, 2004

Taiwan: US urges caution in cross-strait situation

Taiwan can maintain a maximun amount of self-determination probably as long as it doesn't declare independence, US Congressman James A. Leach said
An influential senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives who will head the U.S. delegation to President Chen Shui-bian's May 20 inauguration has implied that he will urge Taipei to handle the cross-Taiwan Strait relations with caution.

James A. Leach (R-Iowa), chairman of the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, made his insinuation while responding to questions raised by the CTI television station on the eve of his departure for Taipei.

Pointing out that his trip was on behalf of U.S. President George W. Bush and the U.S. administration to extend their warm congratulations to President Chen and to underscore the friendship between the United States and Taiwan, Leach also said that this is a time to exercise great caution.

"On the larger, geopolitical issues, I think everyone in Washington believes this is a time for great caution. This is not a time to rattle what might be described as issues that might cause greater ramifications with the mainland," he said.

He said he thinks that "this is a time of great sensitivity" and that "Taiwan can maintain a maximum amount of self-determination probably as long as it doesn't declare independence."

The congressman also explained the guidelines of the cross-strait policy of the United States, saying, "There is on the sovereignty basis a 'one China,' but on a changing status basis, we are strongly committed to China that there be no change based on the use of force."

This sensitive arrangement is rooted in history, tradition and friendship and nobody in the U.S. capital wants to see an escalation of tensions on either side of the Taiwan Strait, Leach further said, expressing the hope that both Taipei and Beijing would proceed on the basis of mutual respect.

Leach, 61, who has been a House member since 1976 and is among the few current House members who introduced the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, has also been a great supporter of Taiwan's democracy.

As to future developments of cross-strait relations in the coming four years, Leach said, "Unless all sides make a real point of being reasoned and restrained, that circumstance in national affairs, sometimes events can take on a momentum that can get out of control...that is one thing we want to work against."

With the hope that China over time will continue opening up its system of values, the congressman said that "maybe we will see Taiwan as a model of the direction to go in how to structure a government."

The Bush administration on May 13 announced through the American Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial organization dealing with Taipei-Washington relations in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two sides, that Leach would lead the U.S. delegation to Chen's inauguration.

Source: Central News Agency