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August 24, 2017

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President: NUC to cease to function

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday announced the government's council for plotting eventual unification with the mainland would "cease to function" in defiance of warnings from Beijing that the move would destroy regional stability.

Chen said the National Unification Council (NUC) and its symbolic national unification guidelines would be scrapped, after a one-hour-long high-level security conference with the vice president and key ministers.

"The National Unification Council will cease to function. No budget will be ear-marked for it and its personnel must return to their original posts," Chen said.

"The National Unification Guidelines will cease to apply. In accordance with procedures, this decision will be transmitted to the Executive Yuan for notice," the president said.

The move comes despite warnings from China. The Beijing government on Sunday said Chen will destroy "regional peace and stability" and cause a "serious crisis" with his plan, according to media reports. Beijing has threatened to invade the island if Taiwan moves towards formal independence.

Washington has also expressed concern over the issue ever since Chen first proposed to scrap the council in January. The U.S. fears the move would violate promises Chen made in his inaugural speeches known as his "five noes" policy and draw America into a conflict between Taiwan and China. Analysts say Washington, which is legally bound to defend Taiwan from an unprovoked attack, views the "five noes" policy as a promise to the international community from Chen not to push the island towards de jure independence unprovoked.

Chen's remarks yesterday were peppered with promises that he had not changed the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

"Ceasing the function of the NUC as well as ceasing the application of the national unification guidelines do not involve changing the status quo," Chen said.

"Instead they are based solely on the democratic principle of respecting the people's right to determine their future.

"As long as the principle of democracy is honored and the free will to choose by Taiwan's 23 million people is respected, we will not exclude any possible form of cross-strait relations in the future," Chen said.

U.S. President George W. Bush also received a special thanks from Chen for recently stating the island and America enjoyed a friendly partnership.

"Taiwan would like to express its deep gratitude for President Bush's remarks in his 2005 Kyoto Speech, reiterating that the United States values the friendly partnership between it and Taiwan," Chen said.

Scrapping the NUC arguably violates Chen's "five noes" policy as the policy includes a promise not to abolish the council and its unification guidelines provided China does not use military force.

Chen's top aide National Security Council secretary general Chiou I-jen told reporters that China's increasing military build-up aimed at Taiwan — including deployment of around 800 ballistic missiles aimed at the island — was a show of force that eroded the premise of the "five noes."

"The president's stance has not changed from 2000 until today," Chiou said. "Provided there is peace in the Taiwan Strait, his promises are valid."

Chiou said the president's decision to scrap the NUC was a response to the military balance tilting in China's favor and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) stating that unification was Taiwan's sole option in the future.

"This seriously violates democratic freedom of choice," Chiou said.

Despite this, Chen and his key aides all toned down the wording of the move to scrap the council. A month ago, Chen called for the NUC to be "abolished" but at a press conference after Chen's announcement, Chiou, Presidential Office Secretary General Chen Tan Sun and Foreign Affairs Minister James Huang shied away from using the word "abolish." They also dodged reporters' questions on whether "cease to function" was the same as "abolish."

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