- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan President-elect Chen Shui-bian today called for a "peace summit" with Beijing, saying he was ready to discuss the issue of "one China" as long as Taiwan was treated by the Chinese mainland as an equal.

"There is nothing that we cannot talk about on the basis of equality," Mr. Chen told reporters. "I believe we can sit down and talk with the Chinese side about all issues, including 'one China.' "

But he said the issue of 'one China' could not be the basis of the discussions.

"We can talk about one China as long as it is not a principle," he said. He did not suggest a timetable for his summit with Chinese leaders.

Mr. Chen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party leader, swept to power in elections Saturday that ended the ruling Nationalist Kuomintang's 50-year grip on power.

China had earlier indirectly warned Taiwan's electorate not to vote for Mr. Chen, who has previously advocated Taiwanese independence. Beijing considers itself the sole legitimate government of China, and views Taiwan as a breakaway province.

President Lee Teng-hui, the leader who transformed Taiwan from dictatorship to democracy, yesterday agreed to resign in September as the Nationalist Party chairman as thousands of egg-throwing protesters who blamed him for his party's humiliating defeat scuffled with riot police.

However, Nationalist Party parliamentarians met today to discuss formally backing a wide-ranging reform package which would force Mr. Lee's immediate resignation, sources said.

"Lee Teng-hui, step down," chanted thousands, many of them supporters of candidate James Soong, who finished a close second behind Mr. Chen. Formerly Mr. Lee's right-hand man, Mr. Soong bolted from the party last year to run as an independent.

The Nationalist Party candidate, Vice President Lien Chen finished a distant third.

"Our president, Lee Teng-hui, has sold out our country," said Lin Shan-shan, 50, a jewelry wholesaler. She spoke with trembling hands, soaked from a blast from water cannons mounted atop cage-covered riot police trucks. She, like other voters, blamed Mr. Lee, president for the last 12 years, for a split in Nationalist ranks that permitted Mr. Chen to win.

The scenes of enraged demonstrators in downtown Taipei contrasted sharply with scenes earlier in the day when throngs of admirers surrounded Mr. Chen as he visited a Buddhist temple in downtown Taipei.

Clasping incense in both hands he bowed before a gilded statue of Buddha and prayed for his nation's future.

Mr. Chen's victory had risked an escalation in tensions with mainland China. However, the threat eased when both Mr. Chen and the Chinese leadership in Beijing issued conciliatory statements after Saturday's election.

Beijing's first response to Mr. Chen's victory was that it would "wait" and "watch" the new president before acting.

In the buildup to the polls, China was reported to have scrambled fighter jets and put its military on high alert.

Today, a Hong Kong newspaper reported that large numbers of Chinese fighter jets were seen heading in the direction of Taiwan following the vote.

The English-language South China Morning Post quoted an unidentified witness in the southern town of Huizhou, in Guangdong province, as saying about 100 jets had flown over the town for about four hours yesterday.

"There used to be planes flying around but local people say they have never seen that many," the witness added.

Beijing fears that Mr. Chen will lead the island toward a formal break with the mainland a move China says would cause a war.

The two sides split in 1949 when 1.5 million followers of Chiang Kai-shek, including 600,000 soldiers, fled the mainland from the victorious armies of Mao Tse-tung.

Stocks plunged today amid fears of increased tensions. Most companies' shares fell as far as the law allows.

Shares were able to drop only as much as 3.5 percent under emergency measures announced last night by Finance Minister Paul Chiu and most companies listed on the Taipei exchange fell by the maximum early today.

Mr. Chen sought cooperation from his opponents, including the Nationalists, who have a majority in parliament.

"There may be competition in democratic politics, but we should never forget to cooperate," said Mr. Chen, 48. "Our future responsibility and challenges are very heavy."

Analysts and former U.S. officials visiting Taiwan to observe the election urged the Clinton administration to support the island in its first transfer of power to an opposition party.

"We've got to bet on this relationship," said James Lilley, a former U.S. ambassador to China and director of America's quasi-embassy in Taiwan.

"It's going to be tricky, but the Taiwanese have had an authentic election and chosen a president who needs help to turn this into a success," said Mr. Lilley, who is now with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Larry Wortzel, director of Asian Studies at the Heritage foundation, predicted the Taiwanese election will increase pressure on the Clinton administration to shift the tilt of its China policy.

"You will see many members of the House and Senate over here for the inauguration and the administration is going to have a very difficult time keeping Taiwan at arm's length," he said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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