Taiwan leader won't declare independence

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian pledged Monday that before he steps down in May 2008 he will not declare formal independence — a move China has long warned would spark a war.

Taiwan leader won't declare independence
"Some say I will do something unexpected during the election season, including declaring independence," the unpredictable Taiwanese leader said in an interview. "This is completely not the case."

Chen made the comments immediately after holding a two-hour meeting with Ray Burghardt, the most senior U.S. envoy responsible for Taiwan relations.

Washington has been concerned that a planned referendum in March on whether the island should join the United Nations could be a precursor to a declaration of formal independence.

Chen did not say whether Burghardt asked him to drop the referendum, though more senior U.S. officials, including Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, have done so.

The Taiwanese leader, who is finishing his second four-year term, insisted that the referendum reflected the will of Taiwan's 23 million people and could not be stopped.

"The referendum was initiated by the people," he said. "It has nothing to do with the president, and the government cannot revoke the referendum."

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing has long threatened to attack the island if it rejects eventual unification and seeks a permanent break. Taiwan has had a special relationship with the United States, which has warned China that it might defend the island if the massive Chinese military invades.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Aralık 2007, 13:57
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