SCMP Saturday, May 20, 2000

Chen promises to please all


Taiwan's president-elect Chen Shui-bian said yesterday his closely watched inaugural address would inspire "confidence and hope" for relations with the mainland.

A belligerent Beijing and a worried Washington will be listening closely to Mr Chen's 4,500-word speech after he is sworn in this morning and becomes the island's youngest president at the age of 49.

"When everybody hears my May 20 inaugural speech, they will be full of confidence and hope," Mr Chen told cable broadcaster Formosa TV, which has links to his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He did not reveal how he would address Beijing's demand that he embrace the principle of "one China".

Mr Chen has said "one China" can be on the agenda for future dialogue, but he has rejected it as the basis of talks. Beijing insists he recognise the principle.

Mr Chen shrugged off criticism by radicals that he was weak towards Beijing, saying "confronting the tough with toughness would definitely further the confrontation". "It would be adding fuel to the flame of an already very tense and antagonistic situation," Mr Chen said. He said he could not afford to forget that every word and deed could affect the possibility of war breaking out.

There has been speculation Mr Chen might pledge loyalty to the island's constitution - which implies Taiwan is a part of China - when he delivers the speech.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Chen said his speech would deal with broad concepts rather than specific details, and with "democracy, freedom and human rights, which are concepts of universal value".

The China Times Express reported Mr Chen might visit Quemoy tomorrow, apparently to show his confidence in the frontline island's defences.

Outside the Presidential Office last night, streams of residents came to take pictures. One middle-aged man took a snapshot of the lighting outside the building and commented: "It is not as bright as those on the National Day. Perhaps that's because the DPP really is different from the Kuomintang."

The People's Daily rejected Mr Chen's suggestion of a peaceful resolution of cross-strait disputes according to the United Nations Charter, saying that applying the UN Charter would imply that "Taiwan is an independent, sovereign state". "Taiwan is not a sovereign state," said the official paper, and attempts to claim otherwise could create a crisis.