[JURIST] In his New Year message [text], Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian [official website] promised Sunday to support a new Taiwanese constitution in his last two years of presidency. A new constitution would have to be approved by the legislature before sent to the public for a referendum. Chen's comments come in the face of warnings from China and a split Taiwanese people. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party [Wikipedia backgrounder] was defeated in the December election [BBC report] and Chen was afterward expected to act to appease China, including removal of trade and investment barriers. China has forbidden the creation of a new Taiwanese constitution, which it views as a step toward Taiwan's formal independence. Chen argues that the constitution would create a political system appropriate for Taiwan, and that its aim is not independence. China has claimed sovereignty over the island since civil war in 1949. Taiwan's people are divided [JURIST news archive] on whether it should be independent from China. The Nationalist Party, which defeated Chen's Party in December's elections, favors reunification with China. AP has more.