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5/24/04 - TAIWAN PRESIDENT INAUGURATED - 2004-05-24


Chen Shui-bian has been inaugurated for a second four-year term as president of Taiwan. First elected in 2000, President Chen won reelection in a very close race against opposition candidate Lien Chan in March. Taiwan’s High Court is still reviewing challenges to the election. And in keeping with Taiwan’s democratic system of government, Mr. Chen has pledged to abide by the court’s decision.

In his inaugural speech, Chen Shui-bian said that Taiwan’s experience “serves as a testament that democracy does not come ready-made, nor is it a utopian ideal. . . . Democratic advancement occurs only through constant and gradual endeavor, one step at a time.”

President Chen’s speech also stressed reconciliation -- among the people of Taiwan as well as with the people across the Taiwan Strait on the Chinese mainland. “Unite Taiwan, stabilize cross-strait relations, seek social harmony, and reinvigorate the economy,” he said. “These are the earnest hopes of the people, and the preeminent mission of my new administration.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. “particularly welcomes the constructive message” offered in the Taiwan president’s speech:

“We appreciate his pledge that constitutional reforms will not touch on issues of sovereignty, territory, or the national title. We urge both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China to take this opportunity to engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences peacefully.”

Mr. Boucher says the U.S. is “firmly committed” to its “one-China” policy and its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act. In accordance with that 1979 law, the U.S. has helped Taiwan to maintain a comprehensive defense capability against threats from the mainland.

The U.S. opposes attempts by either Taiwan or the People’s Republic of China to alter the status quo. As State Department spokesman Boucher put it, “the differences between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan are matters to be resolved peacefully by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

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