02/27/2006, 00.00
TAIWAN – CHINA
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President Chen to scrap unification council

The decision enrages Beijing and worries Washington. Opposition leader says it will weaken US trust.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian plans to shut down the National Unification Council, a move that is likely to enrage China and worry the US according to various analysts.

Although inactive for several years, the council was seen by Beijing as a token of the island's commitment to reunification with the mainland.

The US reiterated its standing opposition to any initiative from any party that might change the status quo along the Taiwan Strait.

China's first official reaction came in a press release by state-owned Xinhua news agency which reported the "decision to stop the operation of the 'National Unification Council (NUC)' [. . . was taken] soon after the so called 'Meeting of National Security Council'," stressing that "Taiwan's major parties, including Chinese Kuomintang, the People First Party and Non-Partisan Solidarity Union [. . .] strongly opposed and criticized Chen's proposal".

The National Unification Council was set up in 1990 under a Kuomintang administration but has not been convened since 2000 when Chen came to power.

Last week he told a visiting US Congressman that the Council was an "absurd product of an absurd era". He did never the less say that the decision did not mean that Taiwan was embarking on a path to formal independence.

Kuomintang leader Ma Ying-jeou warned that scrapping the council would only undermine US trust in Taiwan and push it closer to mainland China.

Taiwan is de facto separated from mainland China since 1949 when Chang Kai Shek Nationalist forces fled across the strait after suffering a defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong's Communist armies.

Taiwan was China's the sole representative at the United Nations until 1972 when the People's Republic of China (PRC) took its place.

Ever since, Taiwan has tried to maintain diplomatic relations and regain its UN seat by providing economic assistance to small or poor countries.

Many countries have recognised the PRC but still maintain low-level diplomatic ties with Taiwan to benefit from the island's developed economy.

The US also recognises mainland China and subscribes to a 'one China policy', but only supports peaceful reunification. What is more, the US Congress has passed the Taiwan Relations Act which requires the US to come to Taiwan's defence should China intervene militarily against the island.

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