Deputy Secretary Armitage's remarks Jan. 30, 2004

The United States opposes any unilateral action by either China or Taiwan that could affect the status quo in the region, says Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. "President Bush has made it quite clear that we are opposed, the United States is opposed, to any unilateral action which alters the status quo by either side," Armitage told reporters at a media round table January 30 during his visit to Beijing. When asked about discussions in Taiwan about holding a referendum, Armitage replied: "As much as we respect Taiwan's democracy, the referendum in question does raise some questions." (Taiwan's President Chen Shui-Bian has called for a public referendum on whether Taiwan should step up its anti-missile defenses against China.) "As I understand it," Armitage said, "referenda are generally reserved for items or issues that are either very divisive, or very difficult. The wording that I have seen of the referendum seems to be neither divisive nor difficult. So I think it raises some questions about the motives of those who want to put it forward." "The position of the United States on this is that we're studying this very carefully. It's not just the written words that would be in front of one on a paper, but it is the context of them and how they are used domestically. It's a very fluid situation." The United States, Armitage said, wants to study the referendum proposal in context "and how it's used domestically." He noted that in Taiwan, "there is an election campaign going on, and that may have something to do with it." Armitage said that during his discussions with China's leadership, he did get "a recitation that China's policy is for a peaceful resolution of the question, and they wanted assurances that the United States policy was still based on our one-China policy, our three Sino-U.S. Communiqués, and of course I add also the Taiwan Relations Act. We had a pretty good discussion about the whole Taiwan situation."

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