"The Republic of China is an independent sovereign state and of course need not declare independence," the President made the remarks today when he received a U.S. Congressional delegation headed by House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. The President said, "We want both sides of the Taiwan Strait to maintain its own stability and resume dialogue. It is our position to solve cross-strait problems peacefully."
Accompanied by Darryl Johnson, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Mr. Gingrich and his delegation met with President Lee at 11:00 this morning in the Office of the President. Among the ROC officials present at the occasion were Examination Yuan President Hsu Shui-teh, Secretary-General Ding Mou-shih of National Security Council, Foreign Minister John Chang, and Deputy Secretary-General to the President Stephen Chen.
Besides Mr. Gingrich, the visiting U.S. delegation included eleven members of the House, their aides and staffers. The Congressmen were John Dingell, Bob Livingston, chairman of House Appropriations Committee, Doug Bereuter, chairman of Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee under House International Relations Committee, Chris Cox, chairman of House Republican Policy Committee, John Boehner, chairman of House Republican Caucus, William Jefferson, Jennifer Dunn, Alcee Hastings, Jay Kim, Edward Royce, and Mark Foley.
After extending a sincere welcome to his visitors on behalf of the government and people of the Republic of China, President Lee pointed out that the ROC has been categorized by the Freedom House in New York as a completely free country after its direct presidential election last year. The ROC is now planning to downsize and streamline its government structure through constitutional reform and to develop Taiwan into a regional operations center in an effort to boost its international competitiveness, he told the delegation.
The President exchanged views extensively with the members of the U.S. House of Representatives on issues of concern to the delegation, including cross-strait relations, economic development and exchanges, the disposal of the ROC's nuclear waste, and Taiwan's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
The visiting U.S. Congressmen showed great concern over the development of cross-strait relations. Expressing their views on the "one China" policy, they said that the U.S. government would like to see peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues. They also spoke highly of this country's democratic and economic accomplishments.
On the "one China" question, President Lee said that the 1972 Shanghai Communique between Washington and Peking clearly states: "The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China." Afterwards each side claimed itself as representing China. However, Peking now maintains that "one China" means the People's Republic of China and that Taiwan is a province of it, a position which the ROC cannot accept, he said.
"We contend that 'one China' refers to a unified Chinese nation which is democratic and free," the President said. "National unification has been a non-negotiable goal for the government and people of the ROC, but it is unlikely for us to pursue this goal at the expense of renouncing the Republic of China."
Further explaining to Mr. Gingrich and other delegation members the denotation of "one China", the President asserted that the term should allow for different interpretations, and by the ROC's definition, "one China" means a unified China characterized by freedom, democracy and equitable distribution of wealth. "We can never agree with Peking to regard Taiwan as a province of it," he added.
President Lee pointed out that, since becoming a member of the UN, Peking has insisted that the Taiwan issue is an internal matter and that no third country should interfere in its domestic politics. Many countries have gradually accepted this rhetoric as a result of such persistence from Peking, thereby unjustifiably excluding Taiwan from joining the international community, let alone the United Nations, the President said.
President Lee told Speaker Gingrich that the Republic of China has existed for 86 years since its establishment by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. "Our existence is undeniable, and this is why I must impress on you that the Republic of China has no need to seek independence," he stressed.
The President said that for its survival and development, the ROC has to rejoin the international community. Peking interpreted the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Taiwan, the policy resolutions of last year's National Development Conference, and the President's scheduled attendance at the Panama Canal Conference later this year as this country's moves to seek independence, a rationale and rhetoric that is absurd, he added.
Taking the Dalai Lama's visit as an example, President Lee said it is very clear that the Tibetan spiritual leader's visit was simply a trip for religious purposes. "During my meeting with the Dalai Lama, we focused our discussions solely on religion and spiritual reformation," he said.
Only when the ROC exists will there be hope and development for the country, President Lee stressed. The ROC*s existence is the essence of its value; and that is precisely what Peking fears, he added. The ROC continues to hope that both sides will be able to deal with the problems between them peacefully, he told his U.S. visitors.
The President stated that he wants to see cross-strait dialogue resumed. "In fact, our door is always wide open, but Peking has thus far not responded to our various constructive and goodwill gestures," he said.
The stalemate in cross-strait relations since last year is probably related to power struggle among the Communist Chinese leaders, according to the President. Because no one in the communist leadership can have the final word, negotiations between the two sides of the Strait cannot be resumed. "I would like to reiterate that we definitely hope the two sides can get along with each other peacefully and reopen dialogue and negotiations," he said.
Speaking of national security, the President made it clear that the ROC wishes to increase its purchases of sophisticated defensive weapons in order to safeguard its security and the well-being of its people because Peking refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. And the missile tests last year clearly revealed its aggression against the island, he told the U.S. House representatives.
The President said that he does not foresee any major problems in the British handover of Hong Kong to Peking this coming July, but that Hong Kong's development thereafter deserves more attention. Out of concern over the well-being of residents there, the ROC has enacted the Statute Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau in a bid to provide them its best possible assistance after Peking's takeover of Hong Kong.
During the talks, President Lee also expressed his appreciation for the concern and assistance the U.S. government and people rendered the ROC, and particularly, for the U.S. Congress' support.
The President told his guests that although they will stay in Taipei for only a few hours, their stopover affirms the importance that they attribute to the ROC on Taiwan. The significance of this, the President said, is at least two-fold. First, the ROC on Taiwan is the best friend of the U.S. in the world and its existence is a symbol of American values and idealism--freedom and democracy. Second, Taiwan's geographical location is strategically important to the United States in the West Pacific and especially, in Northeast Asia.
Meanwhile, the President reiterated: "Our mainland policy remains unchanged. It is still our national goal to push for a unified China under freedom, democracy and social justice. However, people must not forget the reality that China is now divided. The ROC on Taiwan wants to develop itself into a country of more freedom, democracy and prosperity in the coming three decades; and by so doing, we will be able to discuss, on an equal footing with the other side of the Strait, the issue of national unification when time is ripe."
On the disposal of low-radioactive nuclear waste, the President said, it is simply a business deal between the Taiwan Power Company and its counterpart. "However, we will abide by the regulations set up by the International Atomic Energy Agency and will keep communicating and cooperating with the international community," he said. "The ROC will never do anything harmful to global security and environment."