Taiwan said Friday that the recent termination of a committee responsible for unification with rival China did not alter the status quo between the rivals, following a request from Washington to clarify the move.
On Monday, President Chen Shui-bian announced the National Unification Council would "cease to function," wording interpreted by the U.S. State Department as meaning the council had been frozen, not abolished.
But on Thursday, department spokesman Adam Ereli said there had been media reports quoting Taiwanese officials as saying the effect of Chen's statement was to abolish the council. Ereli said Washington expected Taiwan to correct the record publicly and unambiguously affirm that the council was not abolished.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei on Friday, Foreign Minister James Huang said the media reports had misquoted officials.
"Taiwan has not said that abolition and ceasing to function are the same thing," Huang said. Taiwan would not unilaterally change the status quo in Taiwan-China relations, he added.
During a fractious session of Taiwan's legislature Friday, Huang, Premier Su Tseng-chang and Defense Minister Lee Jye pointedly refused to answer repeated opposition questions on whether the council still existed or not.
Their reticence may have reflected a hesitation to make a definitive statement on an issue that lies within Chen's purview.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war more than five decades ago, but Beijing has threatened to use force if the self-ruled island moves toward formalizing its de facto independence.
As Taiwan's main ally, Washington has consistently opposed any change in the status quo, fearing the consequences of being drawn into a military conflict, reports the AP.
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