Sun, Jan 16, 2005 - Page 8 News List

DPP-PFP cooperation could have big impact

By Hsu Yung-ming 徐永明

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) is visiting Washington, and there have been rumors that he will meet with Randall Schriver, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs among other senior government figures. There has been speculation that Soong is taking advantage of the US to put pressure on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), using US discontent with Chen to constrain his cross-strait policy.

The problem is that with officials such as Schriver, Soong is walking into the lion's den. The topic of the arms budget is certain to arise, for this is an issue that greatly concerns the Americans. And the PFP has been aggressively opposed to the arms procurement deal in the legislature.

So, will Soong's meetings with US officials be an opportunity for him to complain about Chen, or will he have to explain to the US why the PFP is opposed to the arms procurement deal?

It remains to be seen what the US thinks about a DPP-PFP collaboration and whether they will act as a guarantor between the two parties to stabilize the relationship. The two parties might even sign an interim agreement endorsed by US to ensure that the DPP does not abandon the PFP after they find the PFP is no longer useful. This would enhance the strategic appeal of cooperation for the PFP. But before any of this can happen, Soong must first clearly state his position on the arms procurement deal.

Recently a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegation departed for Beijing to hold talks with Chinese officials over cross-strait charter flights for the Lunar New Year. While the PFP legislators were also invited to join the delegation led by the KMT, they did not show any interest in participating. Conversely, Soong would rather go to Washington with the PFP's cross-strait peace-advancement bill, suggesting that the PFP is avoiding the KMT at this juncture, and that it is also likely to steer clear of Beijing. Beijing might well wonder if the PFP is moving to a position of favoring the US and distancing itself from China, and is preparing to shoulder the responsibility of leading the Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development (兩岸和平發展委員會).

Once a DPP-PFP collaboration looks like a real possibility, it won't matter how many KMT legislators approach Beijing. If the extreme ends of the political spectrum in Taiwan can collaborate, the KMT will be marginalized and Beijing will be dealing with a new coalition that has obvious strategic superiority.

What would be the international impact of a DPP-PFP coalition? As for the arms procurement deal, the US has a way in now that the DPP and the PFP are moving closer together. And with Soong playing the leading role in the cross-strait issue, this opens up new possibilities in cross-strait relations. Beijing has not been able to come to grips with the political effects of a possible DPP-PFP collaboration and continues to push its anti-secession legislation. They have targeted Chen as an unreliable political figure, but have ignored the crucial role Soong could play. At this juncture, a DPP-PFP collaboration would have considerable flexibility.

No matter what form DPP-PFP collaboration takes, the possibility of such cooperation is already having an international impact. Soong has placed himself back in the political limelight and Chen has greatly widened the horizons of his historical legacy. This might turn out to be a comedy about two political rivals saving each other, even if the whole thing turns out to be a tragedy for the pan-blue camp. Lien has to concede that although Soong had time to fly to the US, he hasn't had time to send his regards.

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