Transcript: Post Interview With Taiwan's Leader
Below is a translation of President Chen Shui-bian's remarks in an interview with The Washington Post, as prepared by Taiwan's Government Information Office:
Q. Thank you for taking the time to receive us. I know you have a lot of work to do. I appreciate it very much to have the opportunity to pepper you with questions.
A: Today is March 13. Exactly ten years ago today, the second missile of the Taiwan Strait missile crisis landed off the coast of Kaohsiung. The first missile was fired on March 8, and the second, five days later on this date ten years ago. The nearest missile landed about 55 km from Taiwan. I think both of you are fully aware that around this time ten years ago Taiwan was holding its first-ever direct election of its national leader, the president. While Taiwan was engaged in promoting, deepening, and consolidating democracy, China was using military force to intimidate Taiwan. This was unbelievable. China can refuse to practice democracy, but it should not oppose Taiwan practicing it. It should not have used missiles to intimidate Taiwan. Fortunately, the US government, under the leadership of President Clinton, sent two aircraft carriers to the region, successfully resolving the missile crisis and enabling Taiwan to complete its first-ever direct presidential election. Ten years have passed. We have deep thoughts and feelings. The 23 million people of Taiwan feel even more strongly and deeply about the situation. Everyone has noticed the emergence of China. We hope that it will be a peaceful emergence marked by the awakening of democracy in China.
In reality, China is like an elephant. When an elephant walks into a china shop, if it goes crazy, it may make a mess of, or even destroy, the china, antiques, or other valuable things located there. If China is an elephant, then Taiwan, being so small, is like a rabbit. Taiwan is a very timid rabbit. When China the elephant tramples upon Taiwan the rabbit, people throughout the world demand that Taiwan the rabbit not make a sound, that it not even yelp in pain, but that it silently endure being trampled upon. Everyone is afraid that China the elephant may go crazy, but they can only think of asking Taiwan the rabbit not to struggle. The more the rabbit struggles, the crazier the elephant becomes. Everyone has forgotten that the elephant has the rabbit under its foot, and the rabbit perhaps is even injured and unable to shout in pain. Today, on the tenth anniversary of the Taiwan Strait missile crisis, we urge the international community to incorporate China the elephant into civilized society. The international community should work to make China accept the universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace. Cross-strait differences should not be resolved by resorting to force or non-peaceful means. Instead, they should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
It is regrettable that over the last ten years, China has continued to increase its military threat and refuse to engage in dialogue with the government of Taiwan and even ignore its existence. US Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick expressed his hope that China could become a responsible stakeholder. For Taiwan's 23 million people, I, as the leader of the nation, and out of duty and to fulfill my expectations of myself, must play a role as an accountable contributor to peace. What Taiwan has to do is to safeguard cross-strait peace and stability. This is not only my personal mission and responsibility, but also that of the government and of the people. This is also the commitment that I have made in the past five or six years to the US government and to President Bush.
Q. Well, I come from China, but I assure you that I am not a journalistic missile. I just wanted to ask you . . . There are really two chapters here, one is that I hope to ask you about what's going on here in Taiwan, and my colleague from Tokyo is very interested in relations between Taiwan and Japan, which are flourishing, of course. So, if you don't mind, we'll sort of break this into two chapters. So, may we begin perhaps with asking you hellip this recent episode about the National Unification Council, which I understand it, is now finished, and that the episode is done. Is that your understanding?
A: After very candid, responsible, and reasonable communication between the United States and Taiwan, it is very clear to both parties that Taiwan should play a responsible role contributing to the safeguarding of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Of course, we understand the United States has repeatedly expressed the hope that there should not be any change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and nor should there be any unilateral change to the status quo. This is not just in Taiwan's interest, but also that of the United States. We cannot only take Taiwan's national interests into consideration but must also not neglect the United States' national interests. It is very clear to us that, only when the interests of both sides overlap, or even coincide, is it really in Taiwan's national interest.
It is very clear to both Taiwan and the United States, therefore, that so-called maintenance of the status quo is, of course, maintenance of Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and human rights, as well as the maintenance of the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Both sides clearly understand, therefore, that the National Unification Council ceasing to function and the Guidelines for National Unification ceasing to apply do not involve any change to the status quo. In particular, regarding the careful choice of wording, originally we wanted to use the word "fei-chu" (abolish), but the United States suggested we use "dong-jie" (freeze) or "zhong-zhi" (suspend). Finally we suggested using the terms "jhong-jhih yun-zuo" (cease to function) and "jhong-jhih shi-yong" (cease to apply) rather than abolish, freeze, or suspend. We thus brought our wisdom, creativity, sincerity, and sense of accountability to bear in our careful choice of the English terms "cease to function" and "cease to apply," so as to express our will and resolution to defend the stability of the Taiwan Strait. We hope that this issue will pass quickly. Moreover, as the United States is Taiwan's best friend and as President Bush pointed out last November in Kyoto that the United States treasures its partnership with Taiwan, communication and dialogue over this issue have been especially precious and important.
Q. You have two years left in your mandate. During the last three or four months you have mentioned several things that you want to accomplish during this two-year period. One of them was this Unification Council. There were two others that drew a lot of attention. One was the new constitution and the other was the application to the United Nations under the name Taiwan. So, would it be smart to say "one down, two to go" as we do in English?
A: Actually, the long-term goals that Taiwan's 23 million people have been striving toward are the aspiration for realization of the universal values of democracy, freedom, and human rights. Let them take deep root and bear fruit on the small island of Taiwan.
As especially mentioned by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the State Department's 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released last Wednesday, the United States promotes democracy and human rights according to its own principle, and the US also provides assistance in building a more peaceful world. The United States and Taiwan are, without doubt, the best partners in terms of values and democracy. Consequently, in 2003, Taiwan finally passed its first Referendum Act and, on March 20, 2004, Taiwan held its first national referendum concurrently with the presidential election. I think people around the world cannot understand why a referendum, a universal value and basic human right for all countries and humans, is treated as a scourge in Taiwan. It is not only regarded as a scourge but also likened to a catastrophe or a war, and has become Taiwan's so-called political taboo. After holding the first referendum, we hope to have the right of free choice while enjoying the right of referendum. This is real democracy. If enjoying the right of referendum means there is only one choice or conclusion, we think this is not real enjoyment of referendum but deprivation and limitation on the right of referendum.
Various opinion polls have shown that the majority of Taiwan's people, more than 80 percent, even as high as 85 percent, believe that the future of Taiwan should be chosen and decided by the people of Taiwan according to their free will. The main reason why we decided that the National Unification Council should cease to function and the Guidelines for National Unification should cease to apply is to return the right of freedom to decide their own future to the people of Taiwan.