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Office of the President Clarifies Reports on President Lee's Remarks

President Lee Teng-hui stated firmly in his interviews with The Washington Post and The Times: The sovereignty and independent status of the Republic of China are non-negotiable....The Republic of China has remained firm in its position on and goal of pursuing national reunification. However, we have no timetable for reunification. In other words, whenever the Chinese mainland evolves into a system of freedom, democracy and equal distribution of wealth, that is time for unification.

President Lee made the remarks during two exclusive interviews at the Presidential Office with The Washington Post and The Times on November 6th and 7th, respectively.

Because discrepancies exist between what was said and what was reported, especially regarding President Lees remarks on the national stance of the ROC, the Public Affairs Office of the Presidential Office issues this statement for clarification.

In both interviews, the President reiterated, that the Republic of China has existed continuously for 86 years since its establishment by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1912. Today, this republic has grown ever stronger. Its economic performance and democratic development have won affirmation and respect from the international community.

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait are now under separate rule, with the mainland governed by Peking and Taiwan governed by the Republic of China, the President said. This is an obvious fact, and it explains why both sides of the Taiwan Strait need to seek national reunification, he added.

However, I must state firmly that the Republic of China is a sovereign state on Taiwan, the President said. If Peking wants to downgrade the Republic of China to a local government or one of its provinces, that is something we can never ever accept.

Of course, we uphold the position of one China, but, to us, it is the Republic of China. On the other hand, we also understand that Peking's one China refers to the Peoples Republic of China. This is why both sides need to seek the reunification of China.

However, the world must realize that the Republic of China has existed for 86 years. Although we are currently situated on Taiwan, we have never abdicated our sovereignty, the President said. The Republic of China is a political entity dedicated to freedom, peace, democracy, fairness and justice. We are completely different from the communist totalitarian system on the Chinese mainland.

Answering questions concerning Taiwan independence, the President repeated his firm position: We need not seek independence, because we have long been a sovereign state. The term Taiwan independence refers to founding a new nation; namely, the Republic of Taiwan. However, as I emphasized repeatedly, we are the Republic of China. We have continuously existed for 86 years to date, and have never disappeared from the international community.

The President said that the sovereignty of the Republic of China is both exclusive and complete, just like that of the United States, Britain or France, and should not even be questioned, he added.

On the ROC-U.S. relations, the President said that from the summit meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Peking leader Jiang Zemin, he fully comprehended the concern over and understanding of the ROC shown by the U.S. Administration and Congress. According to the information he received, the President continued, the U.S. has done nothing damaging to the interests of the ROC.

During the interviews, reporters from both newspapers mentioned the Taiwan Strait Crisis last year and asked whether the President anticipated U.S. assistance in defending Taiwan should there be another crisis in the Strait.

In reply, the President said: Peking's military exercises in the Strait last year, as proven by hindsight, have failed to attain its goals of dealing blows to the ROC and to Lee Teng-hui. On the contrary, this move has led the world to better understand and even to despise Peking's malicious intentions.

The President said that Taipei-Washington relations are healthy, and are based upon the Taiwan Relations Act. Regarding the question whether the U.S. would help to defend Taiwan in case of another Strait crisis, he said, It is up to the U.S. government. I cannot predict, nor can I decide for the U.S. government.

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