- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

Peace referendum

Taiwan’s representative in Washington is strongly defending his government’s decision to hold a referendum during the March 20 presidential election, even though the Bush administration is worried it will increase tension with China’s communist government.

C.J. Chen, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, called the ballot question a “peace referendum” designed to highlight the threat from China, which has nearly 500 missiles aimed at the Republic of China, which Beijing calls a “renegade province.”

The Chinese government has repeatedly denounced any Taiwanese referendum that would hint at a declaration of independence.

Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian defended the referendum at a Feb. 3 news conference, in which he also introduced an initiative to reopen negotiations with Beijing.

“The important new initiative calls for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to drop all preconditions to the resumption of dialogue and instead to abide by the principle of peace,” Mr. Chen said.

The initiative calls for directs talks “based on equality and reciprocity,” the establishment of political relations and the prevention of military conflict.

“It is my belief that the referendum and the president’s new initiative reflect the desire of the 23 million people of Taiwan to place cross-strait relations on a firmer, healthier standing that is conducive to peace and stability in the western Pacific,” Mr. Chen said.

Rising anti-Semitism

The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is worried that violence against Jews is getting as bad in Europe today as it was in the 1930s, when the Nazis were consolidating power in Germany.

Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel, speaking at a dinner last week, said the United States and Europe must work together “to overcome the issue of anti-Semitism, which is indeed, as I understand it and read, getting to a point where it is as bad as it was in the ‘30s.”

Mr. Schnabel was addressing representatives of the American Jewish Committee, who were in Belgium to open the Transatlantic Institute think tank.

Attacks on Jews and synagogues are reportedly on the rise, especially in France, over the past several years.

An EU spokesman expressed no objection to the ambassador’s remarks, but the U.S. Mission to the European Union scrambled to explain that Mr. Schnabel was not expressing U.S. policy.

“Ambassador Schnabel was making a larger point in his extemporaneous remarks that any level of anti-Semitism anywhere was intolerable, and that the trans-Atlantic partners were working on trying to eradicate it from society,” spokesman Edward Kemp told Reuters news agency.

“He was referring to published accounts by observers of anti-Semitic activities worldwide that the number of recent incidents was as worrisome as those in the 1930s.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who meets President Bush tomorrow.

Tomorrow

• Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds, who meets Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. She also addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She meets with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday.

Wednesday

• Ka Hsaw Wa, a Burmese human rights leader and director of EarthRights International, who addresses invited guests at Georgetown University.

Friday

• Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, Hong Kong’s secretary for security, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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