Taiwan regrets Rice comments on planned referendum

Other News Materials 22 December 2007 08:28 (UTC +04:00)

( Reuters ) - Taiwan said on Saturday it regretted U.S. comments criticizing the island's planned referendum on U.N. membership and hinted that Washington should not to give in to pressure from China on the matter.

"We feel sorry about the development," said Taiwan Foreign Minister James Huang after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Taiwan's referendum to apply to the United Nations under the name " Taiwan" was provocative and unhelpful.

"Although China has made a lot of efforts and put a lot of pressure on the U.S., we still hope the U.S. side will see this matter in a calm and collected way," Huang said.

Taiwan's ruling party plans to stage the referendum alongside presidential elections in March, ignoring warnings from Washington and threats from China.

Communist China has claimed sovereignty over democratic Taiwan since the Nationalist army fled there when the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Beijing has threatened to use force if the island formally declares statehood.

For its part, Washington does not support calls for Taiwanese independence but also opposes the use of force by China to settle the dispute.

Repeated attempts by Taiwan to join the United Nations under its formal name, the Republic of China, have failed, prompting the campaign to pursue membership under the name Taiwan.

Taiwan is recognized by just 24 mostly small, poor countries around the world, against 170 which recognize economic powerhouse China. The United States switched its recognition to China in 1979 but remains Taiwan's biggest ally.