Taiwan president delays declaration of independence

.TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan’s president pledged Monday he will not declare formal independence for the self-ruled island before his term ends, but he added that a contentious referendum on U.N. membership that has angered Beijing and concerned Washington was out of his hands.

Chen Shui-bian’s comments appeared aimed at placating fears held by both Washington and Beijing that the referendum was testing the waters for a declaration of independence – a move Beijing says would require it to retake the island by force and that would likely embroil U.S. forces in the conflict.

Beijing is particularly worried that with Taiwan’s presidential election due in March and the Beijing Olympics in August, the island’s leaders might be tempted to test the limits of China’s tolerance.

“Some say I will do something unexpected during the election season, including declaring independence,” the Taiwanese leader said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is completely not the case.”

Chen spoke immediately after holding a two-hour meeting with Ray Burghardt, the most senior U.S. envoy responsible for Taiwan relations.