Chen plays with fire

The FT reports that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian wants to “freeze” its constitution and replace it with a new one.

Given recent difficulties faced by Chen over corruption in his pan-green coalition and his low approval ratings, it seems unlikely, as the FT notes, that his plan will secure the requisite support in parliament and among the population at large.

Indeed, Chen is playing a very dangerous game — the Bush administration has hardly been the most outspoken defender of Taiwan, and surely after the parliament rejected consideration of a US arms package the US will be less patient with any Taiwanese action that might provoke China.

Nothing may come of Chen’s plan, but it is a reminder in the midst of apparently effective US-Chinese cooperation on North Korea that the Taiwan issue remains the sole issue that could result in war between the US and China. The Bush administration has been careful to remind Chen not to tamper needlessly with the status quo, and it should continue to do so.

De facto independence may be less desirable than de jure independence, but it is independence just the same.

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