- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

U.S. officials insisted yesterday that Washington’s commitment to Taiwan is unchanged despite concerns among senior Taiwanese leaders that Taipei might have to “pay the price” of improved U.S.-China relations.

Parris H. Chang, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, had told The Washington Times this week that Taiwan authorities were concerned about a “perceived tilt” in U.S. policy toward China stemming from the need for cooperation on fighting terrorism and containing North Korea.

But during meetings with Bush administration officials yesterday, “The Americans reassured me that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan remains firm and unchanged,” Mr. Chang said in a telephone interview while on his way to Washington Dulles International Airport.

The legislator had led a parliamentary delegation to Washington, where he stressed unease about U.S. attempts to dissuade Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian from conducting two nationwide referendums opposed by China — one on nuclear power and another on applying for observer status in the World Health Organization.

He said the officials he spoke to were not pleased that he had made those concerns public in an interview with a Washington newspaper.

“They said I misperceived things,” said Mr. Chang. But, he added, “Actions will be louder than words. Actions will convey much.”

Mr. Chang, who is a member of Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party, said the administration officials “gave a lengthy and well-reasoned explanation” of the American actions.

“I appreciate that. I feel they have done their job well,” he said. “They are saying the United States is a global power that has to maintain good relations with many countries, and China,” particularly given the need to cooperate on the war on terrorism and the nuclear threat of North Korea.

“I understand that,” said Mr. Chang. “We have no problem with good relations with China, but hopefully Taiwan will not have to pay the price.”

Taiwan newspapers had reported that Douglas Paal, director of the de facto American Embassy in Taiwan, had personally asked Mr. Chen not to hold the votes.

China has vigorously opposed the referendums, which Beijing fears could set a precedent for a future referendum on independence for Taiwan.

The State Department yesterday insisted there has been no change in the U.S. strategy toward Taiwan, which is based on a one-China policy.

“We appreciate and support Taiwan’s democratic development, and Taiwan’s democracy is one of the reasons that ties between the U.S. and Taiwan are so close,” one State Department official said.

“The United States continues to urge Taiwan as well as the People’s Republic of China to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult to achieve,” the official said. He declined to say whether the planned referendums fell into that category.

Mr. Chang appeared unmoved by the declarations.

“We hear what they have to say [but] we will wait for action,” he said, adding that Taiwan will go ahead with the referendums.

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