Taiwan Regrets US Opposition to Referendum Move

Taiwan's foreign minister expressed regret Saturday about remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opposing the island's referendum to join the United Nations.

Foreign Minister James Huang's reaction came after Rice said Friday that the vote planned for March would be a provocative move that would unnecessarily raise tensions across the Taiwan strait, between China and Taiwan. The U.S. secretary of state said a referendum promises no real international benefits for the people of Taiwan.

Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, has said his referendum will ask voters whether they support applying to join the United Nations under the name "Taiwan" or the island administration's official title, "the Republic of China."

The United States has previously described the proposed referendum by Taiwan as a step toward a declaration of independence from China.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in August that the United States is greatly concerned by Taiwan's referendum plan.

Earlier this week, Huang said the planned vote is being demonized as a step toward independence, and that authorities in Taipei find this regrettable.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the communist mainland in 1979, but maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan through nominally private institutes in Washington and Taipei. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, and has not ruled out the use of force in dealing with the issue.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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