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Integrity my greatest asset: Chen

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said that his biggest achievement as president has been the elimination of political interference from the military, and that probity has been the biggest asset throughout his political career.

In an interview by the TVBS cable channel, Chen said he has never questioned the honesty of his deputy secretary general, Chen Che-nan, who has been at the center of an alleged corruption scandal.

“Integrity is my self-discipline. Otherwise, I could not have won the presidency. And I have required my working partners to meet the same integrity and moral standards,” Chen said.

He stressed that he gives priority to his officials’ integrity over their capability.

“Over the past four years, I have taken pride in the fact that all members of my administrative team have withstood the harshest integrity tests.”

“I have full confidence and trust in individual members of my administrative team. If any of them has integrity problems, I would not wait until detractors launched an attack. I would take action immediately after I detected the problems,” Chen said.

Asked to name his proudest achievement in office, Chen mentioned the elimination of political influence in the military.

The achievement can be clearly seen in various elections over the past several years, which has come as a stark contrast to the days when the military catered to the KMT’s interests.

Turning to the cross-strait situation, Chen said Beijing has always tried to influence Taiwan’s presidential elections and has used even more intricate means to try do so this time around, including interfering via third countries.

Although everybody knows Beijing doesn’t want him to win the March 20 election, Chen said, Taiwan is not Hong Kong, and other countries cannot interfere in Taiwan’s presidential elections.

“So long as Taiwan’s president is elected by democratic procedures, the United States, Japan, mainland China and other countries must respect the results,” he said.

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Asked whether the referendum scheduled for March 20 that he initiated has caused tension between Taipei and Washington, the president said that his methods and the U.S. position are in line for the most part.

He added that the reports of tensions between the two sides have been exaggerated.

Chen stressed that Bush did not voice opposition to the referendum during his December meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao but instead voiced his opposition to any unilateral changes to the current status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side.

The president emphasized that the March 20 referendum is aimed at maintaining the status quo rather than changing it.

He said his plans to revise the Constitution will be carried out on the basis of maintaining the status quo, and he is confident in the close relations between Taipei and Washington regardless of who wins the March 20 election.

Chen listed five goals if he is elected for a second term: helping establish a national identity, terminating corruption, promoting reforms, defending justice, and creating cross-strait peace.

“I hope to achieve these five goals if elected for a second term,” Chen said.

“We have to establish Taiwan’s identity and its independent economy to let Taiwan become the center of Asia, and the center of the world,” he said.

He said that Taiwan has to first establish its national identity, so as not to become subordinate to China or become marginalized. It will be very risky if Taiwan’s economy is dependent on mainland China entirely, he added.

“Despite the huge market in mainland China, we cannot give up the nation’s identity,” Chen said. “If we give up the nation’s identity, will there be any future for Taiwan?”

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