Chen says he will uphold peace overtures

By Jane Rickards The China Post with CNA

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said he would uphold the peace overtures and moderate stance on cross-strait relations outlined in his May inauguration speech for the next four years of his tenure. Chen’s promises yesterday add to similar pledges the president made earlier this week after Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu returned from a visit to Washington to speak with American officials and think thank members.

Speaking at an opening ceremony for a government-organized national development workshop and women’s leadership talent pool workshop, Chen said the fundamental concepts and policy guidelines for relationships with China would not change for the next four years.

Chen said any form of relationship with China was possible, provided Taiwan’s 23 million people agreed. The president said he would still continue to fight to improve Taiwan’s standing in the international community, despite Beijing’s deep disapproval. He would continue with overseas trips to heighten Taiwan’s international visibility and boost relations with other countries.

Analysts have said in earlier interviews that Chen’s recent peace overtures may be aimed at calming jitters in the public and international community over China and Taiwan’s current high profile military exercises.

In related reports, one of the government’s China policy makers criticized China for its plans to draft a reunification law, which would help legitimize Beijing’s use of force to keep the island part of China.

The United Daily News yesterday quoted a Chinese government official, Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office Wang Zaixi, as saying China was seriously looking into this law, although he was not familiar with the fine details. Please see CHEN on page

Wang said that many scholars had proposed drafting reunification laws and “anti-Taiwan splittist” laws at major national Communist party conferences each year and some drafts had been given to the government for consideration.

MAC Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san said the government had noticed China was using a three-pronged strategy against Taiwan, involving media warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare. “The MAC will closely monitor the situation to see if this reunification law is forming part of China’s legal warfare strategies,” Chiu said.

Chiu said he thought drafting this kind of law would allow for less flexibility in China’s relations with Taiwan.

Chiu said unexpected problems could arise if this law was drafted, saying a policy towards Taiwan can have flexibility and be adjusted to suit conditions, but if it is a law, then it will be more difficult to make adjustments if the need arises.

Chiu also said he thought international opinion would be against the law. “Every country in the world thinks that the cross-strait problem should be resolved using peaceful means,” Chiu said. “I think the mainland should be mindful of the international response when drawing up such a law,” he said. China’s Wang also suggested that cross-strait direct shipping and air links could be opened in terms of the model set forth in the existing Taiwan-Hong Kong aviation agreement.

Chiu said the Taiwan-Hong Kong formula is one of the possible options for future direct cross-strait transportation links.

“The ROC government has been flexible and open-minded in dealing with the direct cross-strait air link issue. But as Taiwan is a democratic country, any option must obtain the approval of the Legislative Yuan,” Chiu said.

Chiu reaffirmed the government’s commitment to talk with China about direct transport links.

“We hope mainland China can present more concrete proposals for opening direct transport links,” Chiu said. “It is most important that the two sides talk about direct links without any preconditions or premises,” Chiu said.