The United States reiterated Monday its opposition to moves that could upset delicate ties between China and Taiwan, following Taipei’s warning it might scrap a key policy body on Chinese reunification.
Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian told a rally Sunday it was time to consider scrapping the island’s National Unification Council and its guidelines on reunification — a move likely to anger its giant neighbor.
Scrapping the guidelines and council, which was set up in 1990 and was formerly the island’s top policy-making body on the question of unification, is likely to underscore Beijing’s suspicions that Chen is pushing for independence. China refuses to rule out war if the island seeks formal independence.
Moving even before Beijing had commented on Chen’s statement, Washington restated its support for a “one China policy” that has been the bedrock of U.S.-China ties for three decades and urged the two sides to avoid misunderstandings.
“The United States does not support Taiwan independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taiwan or Beijing,” the State Department said a statement.
Official: Goal posts have not moved
A State Department official said Washington moved to rein in Chen over the most delicate issue in U.S.-China relations in order to “make it clear in a public way that the goal posts have not been moved on this one.”
“We don’t want China to get spun up; we don’t want Taiwan to get spun up,” said the official, who asked not to be named because his comments went beyond the official restatement of carefully worded policy.
The United States broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and recognized China but maintains close unofficial relations with Taipei and is obliged under the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself.
China maintains its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since 1949, when the former Nationalist government retreated to the island after being defeated in a civil war by the Chinese Communists.
Beijing has refused to deal with the pro-independence Chen and his administration since his election in 2000. The National Unification Council has been dormant since Chen took office.
Chen told supporters at a New Year rally in southern Taiwan that “everybody knows all that’s left of the council is a name,” Chen said.
By dissolving the council and the guidelines, Chen would break a promise he made upon his inauguration to not to do so. He also vowed not to declare independence.