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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

BBC > Malaysia's Anwar is welcomed home

By Jonathan Kent
BBC News correspondent in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia's former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has returned to Malaysia after two months abroad.
He was met by hundreds of supporters outside his house in the capital.
The opposition leader left the country in September to undergo back surgery and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, shortly after being freed from jail.
Mr Anwar was released when the country's highest court overturned a conviction for sodomy for which he had served six years in prison.
Opposition speakers
Three police roadblocks prevented some of Mr Anwar's supporters from meeting him at the airport.
Instead, they gathered in their hundreds at his house in the affluent Kuala Lumpur neighbourhood of Damansara Heights.
Speaker after speaker from all three of Malaysia's main opposition parties addressed the crowds.
The deputy leader of the opposition, Karpal Singh, said he hoped Mr Anwar would soon join him in parliament.
He is currently banned from standing for office as a result of a corruption conviction.
Finally, Mr Anwar spoke.
He wants to meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi he said, to add his own ideas to the current moves towards reform.
That offer may well be declined.
Mr Anwar also said he intends to tour the country to reconnect with the people after six years in jail.
Finally, he left no-one in any doubt that he intends to pursue his stated agenda of improving Malaysia's democracy, increasing transparency and stamping out corruption.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go /pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia -pacific/3969029.stm




Asia Times > Taiwan reels from Powell's anti-sovereignty 'goof'



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By Laurence Eyton
TAIPEI - Taiwan is still recovering from something approaching a collective heart attack over remarks made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Beijing this past week. Powell was in the Chinese capital principally to urge China to put pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear-weapons program. While there he gave interviews to two cable TV networks, CNN International and China's Phoenix TV, at Beijing's China World Hotel.

Most of the interviews consisted of the familiar retread of the US "one China" policy. Powell's interpretation of this policy, as set out in the Three Communiques signed with China in the 1970s and early 1980s (defining their relationship), tends to be the most conservative of anybody's in the current US administration - he sticks most strictly to the letter of the documents.

In general, therefore, Powell's saying anything about Taiwan usually annoys a large swath of opinion on the island, if only because the Communiques, in as much as they address Taiwan at all, uphold a view of Taiwan-China relations that might have been acceptable to dictators in Taipei and Beijing at the time, but about which the Taiwanese themselves were never consulted, and which now is seen as hugely anachronistic.

This time around, however, was something special. In interviews on Tuesday, Powell spoke in unusually harsh terms on the topic of Taiwan's sovereignty. "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy," he said.

In Taipei this was regarded as the harshest, most decisive expression of this principle made for some time, at least during the administration of US President George W Bush. And it was a remark that managed to annoy just about everyone, irrespective of where he or she stood on the political spectrum.

After all, the fundamental divide in Taiwan, between unificationists and Taiwanese-independence seekers, is an argument about eventual goals; it is not an argument about current status:
The unificationists think Taiwan is a truncated remnant of the Republic of China, founded in 1912, whose government was forced to move to Taiwan in 1949. Just because the land area it controls might be smaller and the government has moved does not mean that the pre-1949 sovereign state ever went out of business, and the world should recognize this. The communists, by founding a new country in 1949, have in effect created two current Chinas, and the world needs to accommodate itself to this reality.
The independence lobby maintains that Taiwan was never returned to China by treaty after the end of the Japanese colonial era, that it was illegally occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) regime until the early 1990s, when democratic elections were held, in effect constituting an act of self-determination that established a new and sovereign country.

The current Democratic Progressive Party government tended to take a middle course between these two positions, but if there is one thing that all sides are agreed upon it is that the Taipei regime is independent and sovereign. So Powell's denial of this managed to raise hackles everywhere, much to the detriment of some important US plans (which we will address below).

But it was Powell's subsequent remarks that left Taiwan in a state of shock. "We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking," Powell told CNN.

The problem here is twofold. While it might have been true at the time the Three Communiques were negotiated that both governments sought unification, the people of Taiwan were never asked if unification was something they wanted. And in fact they overwhelmingly don't want it. The most recent poll by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council - the government ministry that deals with China policy - indicates that fewer than 2% of Taiwanese want unification now and only about 11% want it at all. (This is compared with 6% who want a formal declaration of independence immediately and 18% who want it some time in the future.) Forty percent of all Taiwanese prefer the status quo now/decision later option, while18% want the status quo to last forever.

So, apropos of Powell, one simple fact is that not all parties are seeking unification. Forty-three percent of Taiwanese (pro-independence plus pro-status quo forever) don't want it at any price and another 40% don't even want to consider it until China has changed into a democracy - the essence of the status quo now/decision later position.

But there is another problem on top of this, which is that it is a long-held US position that it does not take sides on any particular outcome in negotiations between Taiwan and China, nor does it act as a mediator; it only insists that the issues between them be solved peacefully. And yet Powell's remarks suggest that the United States does in fact favor one particular outcome - reunification - and, of course, that just happens to be the outcome least favored by most Taiwanese.

Opinion in Taiwan on Tuesday after Powell's remarks was running red-hot. Foreign Minister Mark Chen told legislators, "The US has told us not to give them surprises, but this time it is the US giving us a surprise. This is unfair. Taiwan and the US share the same interests and we should build mutual trust. But Powell's talk has breached mutual trust."

Not only that, but it has damaged US interests. Washington, concerned that Taiwan is falling behind as China's military budget soars, has been trying to persuade Taiwan to purchase an US$18 billion arms package for almost three years. A bill for the budget is currently in the legislature, where it has been held up by the opposition, which claims that the weapons are outrageously expensive and not what Taiwan needs. The government has been trying to get the bill through the legislature before it takes a month off to campaign for elections on December 11. Tuesday was the last chance to send the bill to committee. No sooner had Taipei received the news of Powell's interview than the opposition simply refused to deal with the bill, which means it is suspended at least until January and, unless the pro-government parties win the majority in the legislature they now lack, it may simply be dead.

The opposition is widely portrayed by the pro-government side as not wanting the weapons because it simply does China's bidding, and naturally China is against the package. But Powell's remarks might have turned the opinion of a dangerously large number of pro-government supporters against the bill.

A woman in a coffee shop told this reporter on Tuesday evening: "I used to see the arms deal as something like paying protection, but their weapons probably don't work - at least Patriot [anti-missile defense system] - and [I thought] they will help us out if we need it. But after this, they can forget their weapons. Why should we spend the money when the future has been decided anyway?"

A newspaper editorialist remarked: "Look, the last thing the US needs if it wants to be a power in this region is Taiwan controlled by China. You would think Powell, as an ex-general, would know that. So maybe we should offer China a confederation deal and use of the Tsoying naval base [Taiwan's biggest base, situated in Kaohsiung]. The Americans and the Japanese would wet themselves. They obviously need a sharp reminder where their strategic interest lies."

Since Tuesday, in fact almost since the CNN broadcast, the US has been trying to put things right. The State Department said the same day that Powell had not meant "reunification" - that was a slip of the tongue. What he had meant was "resolution." Wednesday saw the Taiwan Foreign Ministry summoning US representative to Taipei Douglas Paal, a man before whom it usually quails, to "clarify the US position". Paal said the US position hadn't changed but he could not say why Powell had used the word "reunification". A clearly still very angry Foreign Minister Mark Chen later said that Powell's remarks had damaged Taiwan's democracy and hurt its status, and he demanded a US restatement of the "Six Assurances".

The Six Assurances, enunciated on July 14, 1982, made clear that the United States:
Had not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Had not agreed to hold prior consultations with the Chinese government on arms sales to the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Would not play any mediation role between Taiwan and China.
Had not agreed to revise the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
Had not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan.
Would not exert pressure on the Republic of China on Taiwan to enter negotiations with the People's Republic of China.

Currently the situation is that both the United States and Taiwan know that Powell goofed badly. The US wants to pass it off as a simple slip of the tongue. But Taiwan is well aware that China is likely to ignore a denial and make as much hay from Powell's remark as it can. Indeed, on Wednesday Zhang Mingqing, spokesman for the Chinese government's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press conference, "Some people have said Powell made a slip of the tongue, but I don't believe it."

Taiwan well knows that in this game, something once said can be used and exploited, even if it is was said by accident. It can only be negated by categorical denial as part of a restatement of policy. This is why it wants a restatement of the Six Assurances, so the lasting impression is not that the US favors reunification but that the US will not play a role and does not favor any particular outcome. The US is reluctant to make Powell look foolish. It will be interesting to see who prevails.

Laurence Eyton is the deputy editor in chief of the Taipei Times newspaper and a columnist for the Chinese-language Taiwan Daily. He has lived and worked in Taiwan for 18 years.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)
Asia Times




The New York Times > Washington > Election 2004 > Ohio: G.O.P. in Ohio Can Challenge Voters at Polls



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 2, 2004
OHIO
G.O.P. in Ohio Can Challenge Voters at Polls
By JAMES DAO and ADAM LIPTAK

OLUMBUS, Ohio, Tuesday, Nov. 2 - In a day of see-sawing court rulings, a Federal appeals court ruled early Tuesday morning that the Republican Party could place thousands of people inside polling places to challenge the eligibility of voters, a blow to Democrats who argued those challengers will intimidate minority voters.

The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, reversed two lower courts that had blocked the challenges just a day before. It also came as squadrons of lawyers from both parties in Ohio and other swing states from Pennsylvania to Florida to New Mexico were preparing for Election Day skirmishes that will include using arcane laws that allow challenges at the polls.

The lawyer for a pair of Cincinnati civil rights activists who had challenged the Republican plans to challenge voters said he would appeal Tuesday morning's decision to the United State Supreme Court.

But it appeared likely that when Ohio polls open, the Republicans would be able to put 3,500 challengers inside polling places around the state. Democrats also planned to send more than 2,000 monitors to the polls, though they said those people would not challenge voters.

The cases may foreshadow lawsuits that are likely to be filed if the election is close in any state crucial to the Electoral College calculus. Lawyers for both sides are already examining disparities in election policies, nuances in court rulings and potential irregularities at polling places for material that may be used to challenge results in places where margins are paper thin.

The battle over Election Day challenges has been most intense in Ohio, not only because the race here is so close and so vital to President Bush and Senator John Kerry, but also because the Republican Party has announced larger and more aggressive plans to challenge voters here than in other states.

The Republicans contend that challenging - a practice that has been allowed under state law for decades but rarely used - will weed out fraud often missed by election workers. Democrats assert that the challenges would disproportionately single out low-income and minority voters, which Republicans deny.

In their separate rulings in the lower courts, Judge Susan J. Dlott of Federal District Court in Cincinnati and Judge John R. Adams in Akron agreed that procedures already existed to prevent fraud at the voting place. And they said aggressive, time-consuming challenges inside polling stations might create chaos and delays that could intimidate voters or rob them of the chance to vote.

In seeking the delicate balance between preventing fraud and upholding voting rights, the judges said, the scales should tip toward voting rights.

"Voter intimidation severely burdens the right to vote, and prevention of such intimidation is a compelling state interest," wrote Judge Dlott, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. Judge Adams was appointed by President Bush.

Mark Weaver, counsel to the state's Republican Party, said: "The goal of the Ohio Republican Party is to guarantee a fair election for everyone. Each time the Democrats remove an additional safeguard, the potential for voter fraud increases."

Mr. Weaver argued that even if voters had been successfully challenged at the polls, they would have been allowed to cast provisional ballots, which are reviewed after Election Day to ensure that the voter is eligible. Democrats and many experts in election law say the rules for counting provisional ballots are varied and unclear, which could lead to valid ballots being rejected.

The Ohio Republicans have repeatedly argued that the Democratic Party and allied groups have engaged in widespread fraud. On Monday, they filed a motion in state court asserting that the Democrats and an independent group, America Coming Together, which supports Senator Kerry, have been contacting Republicans and giving them incorrect information about polling locations and other Election Day issues.

Democrats and the group denied the assertion.

In a similar and perhaps redundant decision in New Jersey, a federal judge, Dickinson R. Debevoise, ruled Monday that the Republican National Committee and people under its control may not challenge Ohio voters using a list of 35,000 people prepared by local Republicans here. The list is based on mail returned as undeliverable.

Judge Debevoise, ruling on a challenge filed by minority voters in Federal District Court in Newark, based his order Monday on a 1982 decision that prohibited the Republican National Committee from using so-called ballot security measures to frustrate efforts by members of minorities to vote. Judge Debevoise ruled that the 1982 decision, a consent order entered as part of a settlement in New Jersey, was national in scope and continued to be in effect.

Lawyers for the Republicans filed an immediate appeal to the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

Even as the Ohio dispute was working its way through the courts, lawyers in other states were gearing up for Election Day challenges.

In Philadelphia, Republicans have said they plan to challenge 10,000 voters in the heavily black West Philadelphia section because of what they say are concerns of registration fraud. Democratic Party lawyers are expected to ask judges to remove the challengers if they are overly aggressive.

In Florida, Republicans have said they will challenge 1,700 people with felons convictions if they show up to vote. Democrats have mustered thousands of poll watchers whose job will be to ensure that voters are not intimidated.

In New Mexico, officials in both parties said they were placing hundreds of lawyers in polling places as monitors. Democrats have said they will not challenge voters, but Republicans have held out the possibility of doing so.

And in Wisconsin, a dispute over Election Day challenges was resolved amicably over the weekend when the two parties agreed to prepare a list of 5,512 people with questionable registrations, like those with discrepancies in their addresses. If those people attempt to vote, they will be asked to produce documentation showing their address. If they have no such proof, they will be allowed to vote, but their ballot will be tagged as challenged, meaning they might be rejected during a recount, officials said.

As the parties geared up for Election Day and beyond, it was clear both had marshaled impressive forces, though the Democrats claimed to have the edge in troop strength.

Robert F. Bauer, the Democratic National Committee's national counsel for voter protection, said the party had assembled the biggest collection of volunteer lawyers ever.

"It is the largest law firm in the United States," Mr. Bauer said of his team. "If we paid everyone at the prevailing market rate, it would rank among the more robust economies in the world."

Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a senior adviser to the Republican party in Florida, said she was unimpressed. "Why is that something to be proud of?" she asked, adding that "we have lawyers in every county, and at the state level."

Daniel J. Hoffheimer, the state legal counsel for the Kerry campaign in Ohio, said he had recruited lead lawyers in virtually every one of the state's 88 counties. He said three issues could ripen into postelection lawsuits if the vote was close in Ohio: provisional ballots, challenges to voters and absentee ballots.

Both sides agreed that no one knew where significant trouble would break out or what specific legal issues would be involved. But all concerned said they had tried to learn from the litigation chaos in Florida in 2000.

"Last time everybody was entirely unprepared," said Barry Richard, who represented the Bush campaign in Florida in 2000. "We had to organize very quickly. Nobody expected it to begin with and nobody expected the magnitude of it or the length of it. We suddenly found ourselves facing three trials, any one of which could have made the difference in the election."


James Dao reported from Columbus for this article, and Adam Liptak from New York.

Taipai Times > MAC welcomes Kerry's comments about Taiwan

By Joy Su
STAFF REPORTER
Saturday, Oct 30, 2004
The Mainland Affairs Council yesterday welcomed Senator John Kerry's remarks that the "one country, two systems" model could not be replicated in Taiwan, saying that it was a recognition of Taiwan's situation as unique and different from that of Hong Kong.
"The "one country, two sys-tems" approach was designed to protect Hong Kong's freedoms while respecting China's sovereignty. The "one country, two systems" model can't be replicated for Taiwan" Kerry told the Sing Tao Daily in an exclusive interview conducted by written exchanges.
"If China will not respect Hong Kong's full rights under the current system, it sends a negative message that will further complicate efforts to resolve issues with the Taiwanese," Kerry wrote in response to questions about the applicability of the "one country, two systems" framework to Taiwan.
Kerry's remarks on cross-strait relations have been sparse, but his statements in the newspaper effectively reverse previous remarks.
He had suggested in January during a radio interview with six other democratic candidates that the "one country two systems" model could be implemented in Taiwan as a solution to the cross-strait impasse.
Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (ªô¤Ó¤T) told the Taipei Times yesterday that the council welcomed the senator's remarks as they clearly identified Taiwan's circumstances as unique, and as such unsuitable for the "one country, two systems" framework.
"The [US] election is so close. Both candidates want to make sure that they do not lose the election on a simple mistake," Chiu said.
"Taiwan is not the central issue in the elections, and as such neither candidate wants to take the risk that comes with endorsing uncertain variables," he said.
He added that Kerry's remarks were effectively a reaffirmation of the US' "one China" policy.
Chiu reiterated that the US' overall stance, specifically its insistence on its "one China" policy and the six assurances forged under former president Ronald Reagan's administration, would continue to be the cornerstone of US cross-strait policymaking.
"I will reaffirm the US' `One China' policy, whose core is an insistence that the Taiwan Strait issue should be resolved peacefully and with the assent of the people of Taiwan," Kerry said in the interview, vowing to "minimize misperceptions and misplaced expectations" and encourage the resumption of cross-strait dialogue.
"Taiwan is the most difficult and sensitive issue in US-China relations. The goal of United States policy is to deter Beijing from taking military action and to restrain Taipei from political initiatives that would provoke a use of force," Kerry said, pointing out that the US did not support Taiwan independence.

From:
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2004/10/30/2003208938


Brandenton.Com > China, S. Korea disagree with U.S. over N. Korea

GEORGE GEDDA
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's tactics for disarming North Korea are not working, two key U.S. supporters of talks with Pyongyang told Secretary of State Colin Powell this week. But the administration is downplaying a rift with its partners on the sensitive issue - which has been a subject of repeated sparring by President Bush and Democratic opponent John Kerry.
The State Department says the United States enjoys a "remarkable similarity of views" with China and South Korea on North Korea, despite differences they aired. The United States has joined with those two countries, plus Japan and Russia, to press North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic benefits and security guarantees.
The process is at a standstill because Pyongyang refused to show up for talks scheduled for September. Bush administration officials believe the North is intentionally delaying talks until after the U.S. presidential elections.
With Powell standing at his side in Seoul on Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon said the United States and fellow negotiators "must come up with a more creative and realistic proposal" to lure North Korea back to the talks.
A day earlier in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met with Powell and then called for a "more flexible and practical" U.S. attitude toward North Korea.
Powell indicated frustration over the remarks because he believes the United States showed flexibility in June, the last time six-nation talks were held. The United States set forth a detailed proposal on the pace and type of benefits North Korea would receive if it offered a credible commitment to disarm. Powell suggested the United States will not offer a new proposal when North Korea has yet to respond to the last one.
American visitors to North Korea have been impressed with how attuned Pyongyang officials are to U.S. campaign developments, including polling numbers. Many assume the North prefers Kerry to Bush, who labeled the North a member of an international "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran.
While Kerry says direct talks with the North should supplement the six-party format, Bush holds that Kerry's plan would trigger the collapse of the broad-based approach.
Powell says North Korea strongly favors bilateral discussions. "They want some benefits and rewards for their incorrect behavior. They want free aid," said Powell. He added that the one-on-one approach, tried in 1994, ended with an agreement that North Korea violated not long thereafter.
In denying suggestions of a U.S. rift with China and South Korea over tactics, the State Department said, "The thrust of the trip from all of us was how to get them back to the table, how to press forward as soon as possible."
But it was highly unusual for China and South Korea to air differences with Washington so close to the U.S. election, noted Nicholas Eberstadt, a Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
"It begs the question as to why Powell would have subjected himself to this if he had foreseen the embarrassment that was awaiting him," Eberstadt said.
Chinese criticism of the United States may be aimed at calming North Korea, making it easier for Pyongyang to return to the talks, said Don Oberdorfer of the School of Advanced International Studies.
http://www.bradenton.com


Asia Times > Taiwan reels from Powell's anti-sovereignty 'goof'

By Laurence Eyton
TAIPEI - Taiwan is still recovering from something approaching a collective heart attack over remarks made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Beijing this past week. Powell was in the Chinese capital principally to urge China to put pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear-weapons program. While there he gave interviews to two cable TV networks, CNN International and China's Phoenix TV, at Beijing's China World Hotel.

Most of the interviews consisted of the familiar retread of the US "one China" policy. Powell's interpretation of this policy, as set out in the Three Communiques signed with China in the 1970s and early 1980s (defining their relationship), tends to be the most conservative of anybody's in the current US administration - he sticks most strictly to the letter of the documents.

In general, therefore, Powell's saying anything about Taiwan usually annoys a large swath of opinion on the island, if only because the Communiques, in as much as they address Taiwan at all, uphold a view of Taiwan-China relations that might have been acceptable to dictators in Taipei and Beijing at the time, but about which the Taiwanese themselves were never consulted, and which now is seen as hugely anachronistic.

This time around, however, was something special. In interviews on Tuesday, Powell spoke in unusually harsh terms on the topic of Taiwan's sovereignty. "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy," he said.

In Taipei this was regarded as the harshest, most decisive expression of this principle made for some time, at least during the administration of US President George W Bush. And it was a remark that managed to annoy just about everyone, irrespective of where he or she stood on the political spectrum.

After all, the fundamental divide in Taiwan, between unificationists and Taiwanese-independence seekers, is an argument about eventual goals; it is not an argument about current status:
The unificationists think Taiwan is a truncated remnant of the Republic of China, founded in 1912, whose government was forced to move to Taiwan in 1949. Just because the land area it controls might be smaller and the government has moved does not mean that the pre-1949 sovereign state ever went out of business, and the world should recognize this. The communists, by founding a new country in 1949, have in effect created two current Chinas, and the world needs to accommodate itself to this reality.
The independence lobby maintains that Taiwan was never returned to China by treaty after the end of the Japanese colonial era, that it was illegally occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) regime until the early 1990s, when democratic elections were held, in effect constituting an act of self-determination that established a new and sovereign country.

The current Democratic Progressive Party government tended to take a middle course between these two positions, but if there is one thing that all sides are agreed upon it is that the Taipei regime is independent and sovereign. So Powell's denial of this managed to raise hackles everywhere, much to the detriment of some important US plans (which we will address below).

But it was Powell's subsequent remarks that left Taiwan in a state of shock. "We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking," Powell told CNN.

The problem here is twofold. While it might have been true at the time the Three Communiques were negotiated that both governments sought unification, the people of Taiwan were never asked if unification was something they wanted. And in fact they overwhelmingly don't want it. The most recent poll by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council - the government ministry that deals with China policy - indicates that fewer than 2% of Taiwanese want unification now and only about 11% want it at all. (This is compared with 6% who want a formal declaration of independence immediately and 18% who want it some time in the future.) Forty percent of all Taiwanese prefer the status quo now/decision later option, while18% want the status quo to last forever.

So, apropos of Powell, one simple fact is that not all parties are seeking unification. Forty-three percent of Taiwanese (pro-independence plus pro-status quo forever) don't want it at any price and another 40% don't even want to consider it until China has changed into a democracy - the essence of the status quo now/decision later position.

But there is another problem on top of this, which is that it is a long-held US position that it does not take sides on any particular outcome in negotiations between Taiwan and China, nor does it act as a mediator; it only insists that the issues between them be solved peacefully. And yet Powell's remarks suggest that the United States does in fact favor one particular outcome - reunification - and, of course, that just happens to be the outcome least favored by most Taiwanese.

Opinion in Taiwan on Tuesday after Powell's remarks was running red-hot. Foreign Minister Mark Chen told legislators, "The US has told us not to give them surprises, but this time it is the US giving us a surprise. This is unfair. Taiwan and the US share the same interests and we should build mutual trust. But Powell's talk has breached mutual trust."

Not only that, but it has damaged US interests. Washington, concerned that Taiwan is falling behind as China's military budget soars, has been trying to persuade Taiwan to purchase an US$18 billion arms package for almost three years. A bill for the budget is currently in the legislature, where it has been held up by the opposition, which claims that the weapons are outrageously expensive and not what Taiwan needs. The government has been trying to get the bill through the legislature before it takes a month off to campaign for elections on December 11. Tuesday was the last chance to send the bill to committee. No sooner had Taipei received the news of Powell's interview than the opposition simply refused to deal with the bill, which means it is suspended at least until January and, unless the pro-government parties win the majority in the legislature they now lack, it may simply be dead.

The opposition is widely portrayed by the pro-government side as not wanting the weapons because it simply does China's bidding, and naturally China is against the package. But Powell's remarks might have turned the opinion of a dangerously large number of pro-government supporters against the bill.

A woman in a coffee shop told this reporter on Tuesday evening: "I used to see the arms deal as something like paying protection, but their weapons probably don't work - at least Patriot [anti-missile defense system] - and [I thought] they will help us out if we need it. But after this, they can forget their weapons. Why should we spend the money when the future has been decided anyway?"

A newspaper editorialist remarked: "Look, the last thing the US needs if it wants to be a power in this region is Taiwan controlled by China. You would think Powell, as an ex-general, would know that. So maybe we should offer China a confederation deal and use of the Tsoying naval base [Taiwan's biggest base, situated in Kaohsiung]. The Americans and the Japanese would wet themselves. They obviously need a sharp reminder where their strategic interest lies."

Since Tuesday, in fact almost since the CNN broadcast, the US has been trying to put things right. The State Department said the same day that Powell had not meant "reunification" - that was a slip of the tongue. What he had meant was "resolution." Wednesday saw the Taiwan Foreign Ministry summoning US representative to Taipei Douglas Paal, a man before whom it usually quails, to "clarify the US position". Paal said the US position hadn't changed but he could not say why Powell had used the word "reunification". A clearly still very angry Foreign Minister Mark Chen later said that Powell's remarks had damaged Taiwan's democracy and hurt its status, and he demanded a US restatement of the "Six Assurances".

The Six Assurances, enunciated on July 14, 1982, made clear that the United States:
Had not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Had not agreed to hold prior consultations with the Chinese government on arms sales to the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Would not play any mediation role between Taiwan and China.
Had not agreed to revise the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
Had not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan.
Would not exert pressure on the Republic of China on Taiwan to enter negotiations with the People's Republic of China.

Currently the situation is that both the United States and Taiwan know that Powell goofed badly. The US wants to pass it off as a simple slip of the tongue. But Taiwan is well aware that China is likely to ignore a denial and make as much hay from Powell's remark as it can. Indeed, on Wednesday Zhang Mingqing, spokesman for the Chinese government's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press conference, "Some people have said Powell made a slip of the tongue, but I don't believe it."

Taiwan well knows that in this game, something once said can be used and exploited, even if it is was said by accident. It can only be negated by categorical denial as part of a restatement of policy. This is why it wants a restatement of the Six Assurances, so the lasting impression is not that the US favors reunification but that the US will not play a role and does not favor any particular outcome. The US is reluctant to make Powell look foolish. It will be interesting to see who prevails.

Laurence Eyton is the deputy editor in chief of the Taipei Times newspaper and a columnist for the Chinese-language Taiwan Daily. He has lived and worked in Taiwan for 18 years.
From: