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Chen Vows to Seek New Constitution for Taiwan

January 01, 2006|From Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Chen Shui-bian pledged today to push for a new constitution for Taiwan in his last two years in office, despite warnings from China and growing domestic opposition.

"If social conditions are ripe, who says we cannot hold a referendum on a new constitution by next year?" Chen said in a New Year's message.

The Taiwanese leader's remarks appeared to crush expectations that he might give in to mounting domestic pressure to reconcile with China.

The president's Democratic Progressive Party was dealt a harsh setback in Dec. 3 municipal elections.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and China has repeatedly warned the island against adopting a new constitution.

The mainland views such a move as a step that would pave the way for Taiwan's declaring formal independence.

Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party won overwhelmingly in the municipal elections.

That puts the Nationalists in position to push their agenda during the 2008 presidential campaign.

The Nationalists' policy is eventual reunification with rival China.

Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island and has refused to talk with Chen because it sees him as a strong supporter of Taiwanese independence and unalterably opposed to the Nationalist platform of reunification.

In contrast to the Nationalists, Chen and his party support strengthening the island's status as a self-governing entity.

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