Sat, Jan 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Soong faces a moment of truth

Taiwan's political situation has been chaotic ever since the presidential election in March last year. When People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) returns from his trip to Washington, where he is meeting with officials from the US State Department and members of various think tanks, it will become clear whether the PFP will merge with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or cooperate with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The DPP has tested the waters more than once regarding cooperation with the PFP, suggesting that Soong might be offered the premiership or the vice premiership, the chairmanship of the Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), or chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation. The PFP leadership and its legislative caucus have daily expressed doubts and asked for clarifications, but no one knows what Soong really thinks about all this.

We believe that, in the current situation, cooperation between the DPP and the PFP is the most beneficial option for Taiwan to achieve domestic political stability and sustainable social progress. It will also allow Taiwan to move away from the long-established culture of political confrontation. If the PFP chooses to merge with the KMT, political life in Taiwan will continue in the same rut of intense inter-party wrangling, and that is something that the people of Taiwan do not want. Although the DPP and the PFP may not be able to cooperate on all issues, DPP-PFP cooperation should be based on reconciliation and an acceptance of differences when agreement is not possible.

The PFP have never hidden the fact that Soong has ambitions regarding the cross-strait issue, and given the chance he would go full out to fulfill what he sees as his historic duty of finding an end to the impasse. Nevertheless, Soong is fully aware that the quickest route between Taipei and Beijing is via Washington. From his visit to engage in talks with State Department officials, it seems that there could be some basis for cooperation between the DPP and PFP on handling the cross-strait issue.

The policies of the two parties on the cross-strait question are at extreme ends of the spectrum, but that doesn't mean common ground cannot be found. Despite the fact that the PFP has issues with the DPP's stand on Taiwanese independence, and the DPP in turn finds the PFP's pro-China stance difficult to swallow, both sides should be able to accept the principle of the "ROC on Taiwan." This would be completely in tune with the spirit of the DPP's proposed resolution to defend Taiwan's sovereignty, as well as with the Cross-Strait Peace Advancement Law proposed by the PFP. If they both use this as a starting point, their cross-strait policy could find acceptance in both parties and among the Taiwanese public, and allow for stable development for Taiwan.

Of course, it is not only Taiwan that is seeking a resolution to the cross-strait crisis. The international community demands a balance in the cross-strait relationship, and the people of Taiwan also want security. While he's in Washington, we are sure that Soong will receive many expressions of concern over the disparity of armaments between the two sides of the Strait and regarding Taiwan's ability to defend itself from China. Soong will understand from this that the arms procurement budget is not, as the PFP has claimed, a payment of protection money to the US -- nor is it an attempt by government officials to pocket a hefty commission on the deal. This will force him to revisit his position on boycotting the arms procurement bill.

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