Chen urges S. Korea to resume high-level talks with Taiwan

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian pushed for the resumption of ministerial-level economic talks and direct air links between Taiwan and South Korea when he met with visiting former South Korean President Kim Young Sam yesterday. Chen told his guest that in view of rapidly growing Taiwan-South Korean trade, the two countries should resume annual ministerial-level economic meetings, which were suspended when Seoul switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in August 1992. Meanwhile, Chen said he would welcome resumption of bilateral direct air links after a nine-year break. But he insisted that Taiwan’s national dignity and interests must be upheld and protected. “We welcome calls for resumption of air links with South Korea and will do our best to promote it. But any resumption should be based on the principles of national dignity, substantial interests, parity and reciprocity,” Chen stressed. Regarding bilateral ties, Chen went on, the two countries should look forward, not look back. “While we feel that the past should be reviewed to avoid recurrence of identical mistakes, we hope forward-looking measures can be adopted to restore traditional friendship,” he said. Since Taiwan and South Korea share common beliefs in freedom, democracy and human rights, Chen said, the two countries should work together for mutual interests. Noting that Taiwan-South Korean trade has grown at an annual rate of 30 percent in recent years, Chen said he sees an urgent need for the two countries to resume an annual ministerial-level economic conferences to discuss relevant issues.

Customs tallies show that two-way trade between Taiwan and South Korea reached US$13 billion in 2000, with South Korea posting a trade surplus of US$5 billion. Taiwan was South Korea’s fifth largest export market last year.

Kim arrived in Taipei, Tuesday, for a five-day visit at the invitation of President Chen. He was the highest-profile visitor from South Korea since the two countries cut diplomatic ties. Chen expressed his admiration for Kim’s courage to visit Taiwan despite pressure at home and from mainland China. In addition to discussing measures for boosting substantive ROC-South Korean ties, Chen said he hopes to exchange views with Kim on strategic regional issues, including promoting Asia-Pacific stability and prosperity. For his part, Kim said he has decided to visit Taiwan mainly because he is convinced that his trip would contribute to Asian peace and help improve relations across the Taiwan Strait. Kim also said he believes that both Taipei and Seoul would benefit from the resumption of direct air links. Later in the day, Kim paid a visit to Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng who hosted a luncheon in honor of Kim and his entourage. Kim, who heads a 17-member delegation on his first trip to Taiwan, is scheduled to meet with President Chen again today. He will give a news conference after the meeting. Local media said Kim may divulge progress in bilateral talks on resumption of direct air links. South Korea has been eager to resume direct air links with Taiwan because it can benefit much from exchanging aviation rights with Taiwan. Negotiations on the issue, however, have been hampered by Seoul’s reluctance to recognize the ROC’s sovereign status for fears of offending Beijing.