TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's new leader Saturday refused to cave in to China's top demand but pledged in his inaugural speech not to provoke war with the neighboring communist giant by seeking independence.
President Chen Shui-bian's highly anticipated address did not satisfy Chinese leaders, who have repeatedly insisted that the Taiwanese leader agree that the island is an inseparable part of China. As expected, Chen refused to accept the notion.
In a statement carried by China's official Xinhua News Agency, Beijing accused Chen of insincerity and expressed disappointment that he did not explicitly say that Taiwan is part of ''one China.''
But Chen's 50-minute speech to thousands outside the red brick presidential palace included several assurances that were likely to calm Beijing, which is worried Chen will push Taiwan toward independence.
Since a civil war split the two sides 51 years ago, China has wanted the island off its southeast coast to reunify with the mainland. Seeking independence would spark a war, Beijing has warned repeatedly.
Chen on Saturday repeated his campaign pledge not to declare independence or hold a vote on the issue if China's massive military does not attack.
''As long as the CCP regime (China) has no intention to use military force against Taiwan ... I will not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or unification,'' he said.
Chen also pledged not to abandon the ''National Reunification Guidelines,'' the previous government's blueprint for rejoining the mainland.
But what Chinese leaders really wanted to hear Chen say was that he agrees that there is only one China and that Taiwan is an inseparable part of it. Beijing calls this the ''one-China principle'' and has refused to accept Chen's offers for a summit until he embraces the concept.
Chen's inaugural speech ''avoided the crucial issue of accepting the one-China policy; the attitude is evasive and vague,'' said the Xinhua statement, which was read on state television. ''Obviously, his 'goodwill reconciliation' lacks sincerity.''
Although Chen did not accept the ''one-China principle'' Saturday, he didn't rule out reaching a consensus with Beijing on the concept in the future. Since his stunning victory March 18, he has said the principle was too fuzzy and should be a topic, not a precondition, for talks -- a position he stuck to today.
''We believe that the leaders on both sides possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future 'one China,''' Chen said.
Becoming part of an impoverished China ruled by an authoritarian regime has never appealed to the Taiwanese, who have built a democracy with a thriving economy on an island about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.
But several times during his speech, Chen referred to the shared ancestry across the 80-mile-wide Taiwan Strait that divides the two.
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