- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

TAIPEI, Taiwan One day after Beijing unleashed angry protests, Taiwan's leader backed away yesterday from his assertion that Taiwan and China are separate countries, opting for a more fuzzy claim that both sides are "sovereign" with "parity."
The change appeared to be an attempt to quiet an uproar at home and in China, where many fear Chen Shui-bian, the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), has been recklessly provoking Beijing in a series of bold speeches in recent weeks.
Mr. Chen's most controversial comment came Saturday when he told a group of pro-independence supporters there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait the 100-mile-wide body of water that divides the rivals.
Such talk about Taiwan being a separate country angers Chinese leaders, who say self-governed Taiwan belongs to China.
Since his election two years ago, Mr. Chen has tried to improve relations with China.
Recently, however, the Taiwanese leader began adopting a more combative approach and began hardening his rhetoric. He warned that if Chinese leaders didn't work with him, the island will walk down its "own Taiwanese road." Although Mr. Chen didn't use the term "independence," his comment was widely interpreted as a threat to seek a permanent split.
On Monday, Beijing warned that Mr. Chen's comments would bring "disaster" to Taiwan. The island's jittery stock market has plunged in the past two days, and opposition parties have accused Mr. Chen of risking a bloody conflict.
Amid the furor, Mr. Chen huddled with leaders of his Democratic Progressive Party yesterday and emerged with a toned-down version of his weekend comments.
In a party statement, Mr. Chen said his assertion about "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait was "oversimplified" and "could cause misunderstanding."
"If we must give it a simple and proper name, then I think a 'statement of sovereignty and parity' would be a more complete and suitable meaning," Mr. Chen said.
He then said that Taiwan is independent and sovereign.
The most important difference between his comments yesterday and on Saturday was that his new slogan drops the politically charged word "country" and doesn't refer to two separate nations.
Taiwan has angered China before by trying to define their ties as "state-to-state relations." Former Taiwanese leader Lee Teng-hui pushed for that change in 1999, and China accused him of pushing Taiwan dangerously close to independence.
Taiwan quietly shelved its "state-to-state" formulation after several rounds of Chinese war games and threats, and pressure from the United States.

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