- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

No more ambiguity

Taiwan, once the land of creative ambiguity, is becoming a land of political clarity, according to a visiting group of presidential advisers.

"We need to assert ourselves. We need people to know that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign state," C.L. Chiou said yesterday on a visit to The Washington Times.

As recently as two years ago, words like "independence" and "sovereignty" never would have been uttered by an adviser to the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Then, the government on Taiwan shared the position of the mainland communist government of the People's Republic of China that there was only one China. Each claimed to represent that China and looked forward to some sort of reunification. China denounced Taiwan as a "renegade" province. Taiwan never spoke of independence, while acting like an independent nation. It is now recognized by 27 countries as such.

It was all perfectly ambiguous.

Now under Chen Shui-bian's Democratic People's Party, Taiwan considers itself independent with no need to declare the obvious.

Mr. Chiou said his group has been speaking to members of Congress and think tanks in New York and Washington to explain what Mr. Chen meant recently when he talked of "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait.

China was outraged at what it took to be talk of nationhood, and Washington was shocked. China has refused to rule out the use of force to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence, while the Bush administration has pledged to defend the island's democracy.

"One country on each side of the strait has been a fact since 1949," Mr. Chiou said, referring to the end of the Chinese civil war, when the nationalist government fled to Taiwan.

Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao added, "It was nothing new. Nothing has changed."

Parris Chang, a member of the Taiwanese parliament, added, "China has asserted again and again that there is only one China. President Chen had to speak up or people would think he agreed."

Rong-i Wu, an economist, dismissed Chinese threats of the use of force, because an invasion would be against China's national interests. It would isolate China within the World Trade Organization, which also includes Taiwan, and lead to economic sanctions, he said.

"Their economy would collapse," Mr. Wu said, adding that Taiwanese businesses have invested more than $100 billion in China.

Mr. Hsiao, however, remained worried.

"That is rationality," he said of Mr. Wu's analysis. "What we are afraid of is irrationality."

Message to Cuba

A growing number of Cubans are claiming a "right to democracy," the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States said this week.

Ambassador Roger F. Noriega called on Cuba to respect the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was celebrated at a summit to mark its first anniversary.

"It is my fervent hope that the good people of Cuba are studying the Democratic Charter, because it represents a path to their reintegration into the Inter-American system," he said.

Cuba, the only nation in the region without some form of democratic government, was suspended from the OAS in 1962.

"A growing number of Cubans already are moving toward that future," Mr. Noriega said. "Many dissidents are struggling to claim their human rights and liberty. Independent journalists are chronicling that valiant struggle, and more than 11,000 Cubans have petitioned for a referendum to exercise their fundamental rights."

Syria, Lebanon, terror

The United States wants Syria and Lebanon to crack down on terrorist groups operating on their territory, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt said this week.

Ambassador David Welch told Egypt's official Al-Ahram newspaper that "monitoring terrorist groups from Lebanese territory is a vital question, and the Lebanese government must do more."

"The Syrian government has allowed terrorist organizations present in Lebanon to grow, and that is a very serious issue," he added, referring to Syria's control over its neighbor.

Syria has cooperated with the United States in some areas of the war on terrorism, but still harbors groups like Hezbollah.

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