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President Chen Shui-bian’s latest controversy.

Updated On: Feb 28, 2006

In what is likely to raise the temperature on cross-straits relations, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s administration has decided to scrap the National Unification Council as well as the island’s official guidelines on possible reunification with mainland China.

He has pulled the plug on the national budget for the Council, against Washington’s wishes. The Council was started by Taiwan’s Nationalist government, Kuomintang party in 1990 and the guidelines were instituted in 1991. When President Chen’s party took power in 2000, the Council became largely symbolic.

Reported in the AFP, Chen said the decision had been prompted by "China's persistent military threat and its attempts to use non-peaceful means to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait." This was apparently referring to the 700 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan. Besides utilizing the reasons of national security, he also called the National Unification Council (NUC) as the absurd product of a repressive past. Quoted in Taipei Times. "The Unification Council is a product of absurdity rendered in an absurd era," Chen said. "It violates the principle of popular sovereignty and deprives the people of Taiwan of their right to decide the future direction of our country." President Chen timed his rejection of the NUC well as Republican Representative Robert Simmons of Connecticut visited him at the Presidential Office. Vice President Annette Lu supported Chen’s initiatives. "We've put up with it for six years. I think that should be enough," she said.

Not all in Taipei agreed with Chen. Chen Yunlin head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, called Chen Shui-bian's plan to scrap the Unification Council "a dangerous sign of an escalation in Taiwan separatists' activities."Taiwan’s mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said in a press release that "Taiwan's future has to be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan, and in keeping with mainstream opinion in Taiwan." "On the one hand, China has said it will respect the wish of the Taiwanese people to be their own masters, but on the other hand, it has imposed the `Anti-Secession' Law which states that unification is the only option. This kind of provocation by China has prevented the normalization of cross-strait relations," the MAC press release said.

Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou warned President Chen Shui-bian to "think twice" before making any more comments that could endanger Taiwan's safety, such as abolishing the National Unification Council and declaring the "1992 consensus" non-existent to visiting officials from the United States. Ma argued that the Democratic Progressive Party may disagree with the content of the so-called "1992 consensus," but cannot deny its existence. Maintaining the status quo across theTaiwan Strait is also the policy of the U.S. and Japan, Ma argued, a point that is perhaps appreciated by those across the Straits and much of the region.

Sources:

*Taiwan challenges China by abolishing unification council (AFP, Feb 27)

*FLASHPOINT: Chen said that issues of democracy and security dictated that the body be scrapped, but China called the comments `a dangerous escalation' (Taipei Times, Feb 23)

* Ma warns Chen to 'think twice'  Taiwan News (Taiwan News, Feb 23)