ROC, PRC must end cross-strait stalemate: Lee Kuan Yew

The China Post staff and agencies

Singapore’s respected elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew yesterday said Beijing and Taipei must break the ice in cross-strait relations before attitudes hardened.

“It must be broken, the sooner the better,” he said in an interview with the Straits Times and its sister Chinese-language publication Lianhe Zaobao.

Lee supported the idea that Taipei and Beijing could restart talks under a 1992 agreement under which both sides agreed that there is “one China,” with each side allowed its own definition of the “one China” term.

“The worst is to allow the position to drift and attitudes to harden,” said Senior Minister Lee, who ended a four-day private visit to Taiwan last week.

Lee said he is “less pessimistic” about volatile Taiwan-mainland relations after his Taipei visit. But steps toward reunification of the two rivals must be taken slowly and carefully, said the 77-year-old Lee. Asked about rising nationalism in Taiwan, Lee said the sense of being Taiwanese was much stronger than that of being Chinese.

But he also said that majority of Taiwanese want the status quo to remain, that is, they do not want independence and neither do they want a reunification with the mainland.

Lee quoted a senior adviser to President Chen Shui-bian who said that the status quo could be maintained under the umbrella of “one China” which invokes the common history, traditions and blood ties between Beijing and Taipei although they have two different political systems.

According to the Singaporean elder statesman, the adviser, 1986 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry winner Lee Yuan-tseh, had said that such an umbrella “will prevent Taiwan from going off on its own and makes it unnecessary for Beijing to act precipitously.”

Lee said President Chen had been told by Taiwan’s principal backer, the United States, that independence was not a practical option.

Chen must in the end “make up his mind” on whether he represents the pro-independence fundamentalists or the majority view of maintaining the status quo, Lee said.

Beijing and Taiwan have still no accurate reading of each other’s minds because of the lack of dialogue, he said. It was also difficult to gauge how far the American public would support their government in case of a conflict.