Thu, May 25, 2000 - Page 17 News List

Chen says dialogue must precede direct link change

STAFF WRITER

The opening of direct transportation, communication and trade links with China will depend on the resumption of cross-strait dialogue and must first begin with the establishment of the "small three links" (小三通), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

Chen said he had offered goodwill toward China in his inauguration speech on Saturday, and that he hoped the remarks would would spur progress in resuming stalled dialogue between top negotiators from both sides -- Taiwan's Koo Chen-foo (辜振甫) and China's Wang Daohan (汪道涵).

Chen said that the possibility of discussing the opening of the "small three links" could only come with a meeting of the two negotiators, and that a willingness to resume talks must be mutual.

The "small three links" would connect Taiwan's outlying islands and China's coast.

The new president's comments came after local media quoted unnamed Chinese officials as saying China's WTO entry would not immediately lead to open direct trade, transportation and communication links with Taiwan.

According to the reports, China's willingness to broaden links depends upon Chen's acceptance of the "one China" principle.

It is generally believed that China and Taiwan's entry into the WTO will facilitate cross-strait dialogue -- but it is still unclear how membership for the two sides will affect Taiwan's ban on the direct "three links."

According to one foreign trade official, Taiwan's entry into the WTO will require the abolishment of the ban in line with the free trade body's policy of every member treating every other member on a most favored nation basis.

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