Lee’s statement raised eyebrows in the United States

‘UNPLEASANT MEETING’:
In 1999, the United States resented the then president’s remarks that cross-Strait affairs were state-to-state affairs, the then NSC deputy said.

Washington took issue with Taipei after then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) suggested in 1999 that Taiwan and China be treated as two different jurisdictions, a former senior defense official said on Saturday.

Former National Security Council (NSC) Deputy Secretary General Chang Jung-feng (張榮豐) recalled the events leading up to an interview Lee gave to German radio station Deutsche Welle on July 9, 1999, in which he first proposed the so-called “two ‘states'”, as well as the political uproar that followed.

The theory, which characterizes the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as two different jurisdictions, is considered by many to be one of Lee’s main political legacies, as it emphasized the national identity of Taiwan.

Photo: Chen Yu-jei, Taipei Times

In an interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times), Chang, 68, said Taiwan hoped to send officials to the United States after Lee’s interview to “offer an explanation,” but the idea was rejected by Washington. .

Asked by Deutsche Welle how he coped with pressure from China, Lee, Taiwan’s first popularly elected president, said Beijing “ignores the very fact that the two sides [of the Taiwan Strait] are two different jurisdictions.

“The historical fact is that since the establishment of the Chinese communist regime in 1949, it has never ruled Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu – the territories under our jurisdiction,” Lee, who died on July 30, 2020, told the age of 97.

Lee said the 1991 amendments to the Constitution meant that cross-Strait relations were “a special state-to-state relationship.”

Lee’s comments, a shift from Taiwan’s previous stance that China and Taiwan were “two equal political entities,” were met with a chilling reception in Beijing and Washington.

Chang said that in late July 1999, he and two other national security officials traveled to Tokyo to meet with senior US officials, including the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and the Pacific, Kurt Campbell.

“It was a rather unpleasant meeting,” Chang said.

Campbell, who is now the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, and the other U.S. officials said Taipei should have contacted Washington before Lee made those statements, Chang said.

They described the situation as a nuisance to them, he added.

Chang said when Taiwanese officials tried to explain what Lee meant by a special state-to-state relationship, a US official simply said, “I don’t care.”

Chang, who is president of the Taiwan Strategic Simulation Association, also recalled how the phrase that caused such an outcry came about.

Chang said Lee added a note to a script prepared by Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤), who was also deputy general secretary of the NSC at the time, for the Deutsche Welle interview.

Chang recalled the note saying, “Taiwan is not a renegade province. At least, cross line [relations] are a special state-to-state relationship.

Although he suggested that such a statement shouldn’t be made because “the time is not right”, Lee eventually made it, Chang said.

Lee, in a memoir published in 2016, described the move as an attempt to bring down Beijing, which intended to characterize Taiwan’s status as equivalent to that of Hong Kong on the PRC’s 50th anniversary in 1999.

Lee said he believed Beijing was planning to announce a proposal to “unite” Taiwan under its “one country, two systems” formula, and such a plan prompted him to take the first step by pointing to international relations. -strait as a special state. -state relationship.

Chang’s interview came after remarks made earlier this year by United Microelectronics Corp founder Robert Tsao (曹興誠) about Lee’s “two-state” theory renewed public interest in the concept.

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