US warns Taiwan against bid for independence

Associated Press

Taipei, April 26:

A US envoy today warned Taiwan against making any attempt to declare independence in a new constitution, saying China’s military threat must be taken seriously.

The warning was made by David Keegan, deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy that oversees US interests on the island. “There are limitations to what the US will support as Taiwan makes possible changes to its statute,” Keegan said in a panel discussion with Taiwanese scholars. He urged president Chen Shui-bian to exercise “restrained leadership,” noting Chinese leaders have repeatedly stated that Beijing has the capability and intention to use force in case Taiwan declares formal independence. “It would be irresponsible for us or Taiwan to treat these statements as empty threats.” The US is believed to be the island’s most likely defender if it is attacked.

Since Chen’s narrow re-election last month, he has made conciliatory remarks about China — but has also reiterated a plan to push for a new constitution by 2006.