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Taiwan will handle referendum issues cautiously: MOFA

2019/02/13 23:18:03

Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) Taiwan will handle referendum issues cautiously in the interest of maintaining regional peace and stability, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Wednesday, after the United States expressed opposition to a proposal by a civic group for Taiwan to hold a referendum on independence.

The U.S. opposes any "unilateral actions aimed at altering the status quo," the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy, told the local media earlier in the day, reiterating Washington's longstanding policy of not supporting any referendum on Taiwan independence.

The AIT's comments came against the backdrop of an ongoing push by Kuo Pei-hung (郭倍宏), chairman of Formosa TV and chief convener of the pro-independence Formosa Alliance, who called on Taiwanese lawmakers last month to make clear their stance on revising Taiwan's Referendum Act to allow public votes on issues concerning Taiwan's future.

Asked to comment on the AIT's statement, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the Taiwan government respects the people's right to initiate a referendum vote in a democratic country.

However, as a responsible government, the administration has to take into consideration Taiwan's role in maintaining peace and stability in the region, he said.

"Therefore, we will handle any referendum issues cautiously," he said.

Also commenting on the AIT's statement, Taiwan Thinktank executive director Lai I-chung (賴怡忠) told CNA that such an open statement by Washington was meant to remind Taiwan not to damage its overall cordial relations with the U.S. by taking unilateral action.

Relations between Taiwan and U.S. are at their best ever, Lai said, noting that the two countries are planning a series of events this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

The AIT's comments served as a reminder that Taiwan should look at the bigger picture, instead of hurting ties by taking some unilateral action, he said.

Without the support of like-minded friends in the international community, Taiwan will jeopardize its future if it holds a referendum on independence at this moment, he said.

Meanwhile, Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Department of Diplomacy and International Relations, told CNA that the AIT's comments were made mainly to safeguard U.S. interests.

Based on its one-China policy, the U.S. maintains an unofficial relationship with Taipei and officially recognizes Beijing, he noted.

The U.S. thinks that a referendum on independence in Taiwan will escalate regional and cross-strait tensions, which will hurt U.S. interests in the region, Huang said.

Such a referendum will also challenge the U.S.' existing cross-strait policy, he said.

The U.S. thus chose to make its stance clear by openly stating its objection to a referendum on Taiwan independence at this time, Huang said.

(By Elaine Hou and Joseph Yeh)