- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, elected this year as the candidate of a party committed to independence, has exercised caution and moderation in dealing with communist China, Taipei's chief representative to the United States said yesterday.

"The Chen government has exercised moderation and is trying hard to engage mainland China but the mainland insists that we accept the one-China principle before dialogue can begin," Chien Chien-jen, chief of Taipei's office in Washington, told editors and reporters at a luncheon at The Washington Times.

"The president is willing to put one China on the table as an issue to be discussed, not as a principle to be accepted."

The distinction is vital because one China for the mainland means Taiwan's acceptance of communist rule.

President Chen has steered the country toward the center despite pressure from some of the five factions that make up his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Some are calling on Taiwan to reject China's demand for acceptance of the one-China principle and to move toward independence.

On defense matters, Mr. Chien said a state of equilibrium now exists between Taiwan and the mainland, with the island enjoying "qualitative arms superiority" while the mainland has "quantitative superiority."

"The real concern is that, say five years down the road, the mainland could achieve superiority in quantity and quality unless a vigorous arms sales program by the United States continues."

Taiwan, in the five decades since Chiang Kai-shek's forces fled there from the communists on the mainland, has transformed itself into one of the world's most freemarket-oriented nations and from a Nationalist Party dictatorship to a multi-party democracy.

Mr. Chen has said repeatedly that he cannot abandon the Taiwan government's sovereignty.

This mixture of firmness and conciliation has enabled Mr. Chen to maintain his popularity, which skyrocketed in March when he defeated the Nationalist Party candidate to end five decades of one-party rule.

"The Chen government is still riding a wave of popularity," Mr. Chien said. "It is not as high as the 80 percent approval when he took office in April, it's about 60 percent now."

Mr. Chien also disclosed that he had sent a letter to a representative of the U.S. government, describing the strong antipathy aroused in Chinese communities in the United States over the Justice Department's handling of the Wen Ho Lee spy case.

The implication was that the communities viewed the case as tinged with racism.

Lee, 60, pleaded guilty to illegally transferring secret data from classified computers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and then downloading the information to a computer at a location he knew was unsecured.

The data included information on the design, manufacture and use of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Chien, who was foreign minister in the last administration and held several high posts before that, is director of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Taiwan's de facto embassy in the United States.

The office was created as a vehicle for Taiwan to conduct normal government-to-government affairs in the absence of official recognition.

U.S.-Taiwan relations are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which provides for arms sales sufficient to maintain the island's defense.

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