‘Two-side lanes’ with PRC acceptable: Chen

By Bruce Chu The China Post and agencies

President Chen said yesterday that direct shipping and air links with mainland China can be launched immediately as long as they are defined as cross-strait ties.

During his meeting with a group of business leaders, led by Terry Gou, Chen was urged to follow through on his campaign promise of pressing for direct transportation links between Taiwan and the mainland.

Gou, president of the Council for Industrial and Commercial Council (CICD), suggested that the president map out a schedule for completing the “three links” — direct mail, trade and transportation ties with mainland China. The three links have been a touchy issue due to the sovereignty issue. But Chen said that he won’t accept an agreement that defines the transport ties on a domestic basis.

“Not only can I not accept this, but the nation’s people will in no way accept this,” Chen remarked.

Beijing, which contends Taiwan is part of the territory under its rule, wants to define direct transportation links as domestic routes. Yet Taipei, which insists Beijing has no sovereignty over the island, tends to consider relations across the Taiwan Strait “bicoastal” or “cross-strait” instead of domestic.

Chen said that he won’t accept an agreement that calls the transport links “domestic links.”

During yesterday’s meeting, Gou asked the president’s opinion about the term of “two-side lane,” which was proposed by former mainland Vice Premier Qian Qichen to sidestep the dispute. Chen said the term is acceptable but there are more questions than just the terminology, so that further negotiations with the mainland are necessary.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), however, gave the cold shoulder to Chen’s acceptance of the terminology Tuesday, saying it is “too late.”

Chang Jung-kung, director of the KMT Mainland Affairs Department, said Qien made his offer one year and 10 months ago and the president’s positive response came only after Qien left his job in the State Council.

Beijing has adopted a tougher line with Taiwan since the March 20 presidential election, defining Chen as a “splittist,” Chang said. Please see LANES on page

He said Beijing proposed naming the cross-strait lane the “two-side lane” in October, 2003, but was ignored by Chen at the time. Now that Beijing has hardened its stance toward Taiwan and backpedalled on its offer in response to Chen’s pointing out that the mainland and Taiwan are two separate states on either side of the strait, there is hardly any chance that Beijing will resume its former stance on the issue, Chang speculated.

Knowing that Beijing’s stance has shifted, Chang claimed, Chen accepted the “two-side lane” as a political gesture in the leadup to the year-end legislative elections.

Chen has often claimed that he will launch direct transportation links with the mainland, Chang said, citing the president’s speech in May, 2000 when he said that direct transportation links are the goal of his first year in office. However, the president has not done anything to push it, according to Chang.

In August, 2001, Chang said, the president confirmed the conclusions of the Economic Development Advisory Conference, vowing to push for the links as soon as possible but again did nothing.

Then, in August 2003, Chen promised to start the links in three phases beginning from that time until the end of this year, but there is still no indication that any dialogue between Taipei and Beijing is possible, Chang said.