Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Follow up on Negroponte interview

Statements made by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte yesterday during an interview with a Chinese television news journalist are being seen by many as a slap in the face for Taiwan -- as the UN General Assembly meeting approaches and debate over the national referendum proposed for next spring continues. The Financial Times' Kathrin Hille explains it this way:

Speaking during an interview with a Chinese television network, Mr Negroponte said: "We oppose the notion of that kind of a referendum because we see that as a step towards the declaration – towards a declaration of independence of Taiwan, towards an alteration of the status quo."

. . . The US previously had only said that it opposed the plan because it appeared aimed at changing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. Calling it a step towards a declaration of independence would be in line with official comments from the Chinese government.

Observers said Mr Negroponte's appearance should be understood as a move to
demonstrate to China that Washington was raising the pressure on Taipei. "Phoenix broadcasts mainly to the Chinese mainland. So it does not take much interpretation to see that this is a message aimed at a Chinese audience," said a US diplomat.

Whether this move will placate or embolden Beijing remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the editorial department of the Taipei Times hit back with some fierce critiques of the United States' recent position over Taiwan's campaign for UN membership and the proposed referendum. The Times expressed exasperation at the continuing prospect of American politicians and diplomats taking a patronizing tone towards Taiwan and suggesting that the country focus on strengthening or consolidating its democratic system (an objective they seem to believe attaining membership in the UN doesn't fall under).

We think the editorial went too far by sarcastically disparaging American democracy throughout the piece, and finishing by saying the issue "begs the question: Who should be advising whom on the need to further one's democracy?" Yet point taken. Comments by American officials and leaders on the supposed need for Taiwan to "consolidate" its democratic system are just red herrings that meagerly attempt to suggest that Taiwan somehow isn't ready to participate in the UN.

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