The China Post staff
President Chen Shui-bian yesterday rejected a Beijing suggestion that the issue of cross-strait air and shipping links be treated as a domestic affair on the grounds that the mainland had assumed that Taiwan was a part of mainland China. On Friday, mainland China Vice Premier Qian Qichen said that direct links between Taiwan and the mainland should be opened up as quickly as possible, provided that the issue is treated as a domestic one. Qian said he favored treating direct links as a commercial problem that could be negotiated by non-governmental business organizations. The suggestion was viewed by some observers as a step back from the previous insistence among authorities in Beijing that Taipei accept the “one China” principle before direct links could be put in place. In their response, Mainland Affairs Council officials only said that they would study the initiative carefully. In Malawi, Chen reasserted his insistence that negotiations over direct links should not involve any presuppositions or conditions. Treating direct links as the domestic affair of one country, as suggested by Beijing, was not acceptable because it would allow those presuppositions and conditions to sneak back into the picture, Chen said. He went on to say that as president of the ROC, he has a responsibility under the country’s constitution to protect its sovereignty, dignity and safety and to help its citizens lead the best lives possible. At the same time, Chen said he has an obligation not to let the ROC be dissolved or to allow Taiwan to be absorbed by another political entity. Chen added that even though he is committed to protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty and safety, he would also attempt to improve cross-strait relations and normalize relations with Beijing.