Paris rejects Taiwan interference claim
PARIS, Jan 29 (AFP) - France on Thursday denied charges from Taipei that it was interfering in Taiwan affairs, after it criticised the island's planned referendum on relations with the Communist Chinese mainland.
“France’s constant position for years now has been to support a single China,” said Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
“When we said what we did, in no way were we intending to interfere in anyone’s affairs. We simply stated again our wish that nothing should divide or complicate relations in the region. That is the wish and interest of all states in the region and indeed the whole international community,” he said.
During a visit to France by Chinese President Hu Jintao earlier this week, French President Jacques Chirac called Taiwan’s proposed referendum on March 20 a “grave mistake,” and later described it as irresponsible and aggressive.
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian reacted angrily to France’s opposition – which joins that of the US and Japan – accusing Paris Thursday of meddling in Taiwan’s internal affairs and cancelling two upcoming ministerial visits to France.
“France has practised the referendum system since 1791 as part of its democracy … Even President Chirac held a national plebiscite in 2000,” Chen said in a statement.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that the government leader of a country having over 200 years of history practising the referendum system has interfered in the internal affairs of another country,” he said.
In Paris foreign ministry spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said: “We are not trying to express any particular criticism of the democratic process in Taiwan, nor even of the principle of a referendum.
“Our sole concern – the concern of the whole of the international community – is peace and stability in the region. That is why we have renewed our appeal for constructive dialogue … to find a peaceful solution of the Taiwan question.”
In response to foreign criticism, Chen has toned down the wording of the questions in the referendum, so that instead of urging China to remove ballistic missiles targeting the island, voters will now be asked about beefing up the island’s defenses.
They will also be asked to vote whether or not to negotiate for peaceful coexistence with China.
But Beijing has been rallying international opposition to the referendum, arguing that it is a step towards a declaration of the island’s independence, a claim Taipei denies.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory even though the island has been ruled separately since 1949.
In Taiwan, France’s objections to the referendum are seen as an attempt to curry favour with Beijing in the hope of greater access to the growing Chinese economy – a view echoed in the Paris daily Le Monde which asked: “But can we be really sure Chirac’s over-attentiveness really serves our commercial interests?”
Subject: France news