Taiwan’s leader warned that he might use a new referendum law to call a vote on Taiwan’s sovereignty, a move that could test China’s threats of force to prevent the island from declaring independence.
President Chen Shui-bian’s threat caught many in Taiwan by surprise. In the four years since he was elected, Chen had said he would push for formal independence only if China tried to use its massive military to force the island to unify with the mainland.
China is pressuring Taiwan -- 100 miles off the mainland’s coast -- to unify, and it has threatened to invade if Taiwan delays.
The United States has helped defend the island before and might be asked to do so again.