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Taiwanese President stands by plan to scrap guidelines on unification
2006-02-22 02:03:46 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TAIPEI, Feb 22 (AP) -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to abolish guidelines on unification with rival China, a measure likely to enrage Beijing and provoke concern in ally Washington.

The guidelines were adopted by former President Lee Teng-hui as a commitment to eventual unification shortly after he took power in 1988. But they have since been sidelined as both Lee and Chen have moved to strengthen the island's self-governing status.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing still claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island and threatens force if Taipei moves toward formal independence. China is likely to see the scrapping of the guidelines as a step in that direction.

In a meeting with visiting U.S. Representative Robert Simmons on Wednesday, Chen said the guidelines served no purpose anymore.

The guidelines were "absurd products of an absurd era," Chen told the Connecticut Republican through an interpreter.

Chen has said the guidelines also limit the Taiwanese people's right to choose their own future because they propose unification with China as the island's only possible course of action.

Chen's plan, first mentioned last month, has caused unease in Washington, the island's major ally, with the State Department emphasizing it opposes any unilateral changes to the present situation.

Taiwanese newspapers on Tuesday reported that a senior China official at the National Security Council, Dennis Wilder, met with Chen in Taipei last week but failed to convince him to drop his plan to scrap the guidelines.

In Washington Tuesday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said he was unaware of such a trip, adding the U.S. was still standing by the status quo.

"We reiterate the view that Taiwan needs to refrain from taking actions which can be seen as unilateral efforts to change the status quo," Ereli told reporters.

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