Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Direct links at any cost?

Tensions are expected to be high on the legislative floor today as the pan-blue camp threatens to put to the vote its draft amendment to the Statute Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例). The proposal will introduce direct transportation links between China and Taiwan.

The move will permit all means of transport, domestic and foreign-owned, to traverse the Strait. And it demands that the Cabinet approve all enabling measures within three months.

Saying that the direct links have nothing to do with sovereignty, the pan-blues insist the proposal should be passed.

Just what is the pan-blue camp thinking of here? Unless they argue that Taiwan is part of communist China, any negotiation on direct links between the two sides has everything to do with sovereignty.

To force implementation of direct links in the absence of negotiations with and participation from Taiwan's government, are the pan-blues suggesting that direct links are simply "domestic routes"? This interpretation serves China's interests well, and is certainly consistent with their pro-Beijing line.

It is remarkable how the pan-blues change their stance on issues just because they aren't the ruling party anymore.

Back when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) served as deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council in the early 1990s, he noted that direct cross-strait links was a complicated matter, involving technical issues pertaining to jurisdiction. Participation of officials from both sides of the strait could hardly be excluded given there would be a host of legal accords to be signed and implemented, he said.

He also noted at the time that given China denied that Taiwan was a political entity, there was no way to deal with the jurisdictional issue unless Taiwan succumbed to China's "one country, two systems" formula and admitted that the nation was merely a province of the People's Republic of China.

The question for Ma is this: Does China now recognize Taiwan as a political entity with which it can enter into the necessary negotiations? Or does Ma himself quietly recognize Beijing as Taiwan's proper authority?

Back when Ma first made these comments, he noted that China had refused to denounce the use of force against Taiwan, and that the introduction of direct links would place an added burden on Taiwan's national defenses. In particular, he mentioned that the direct links would harm the country's early warning capability, crucial in the event of a Chinese attack.

Which begs another set of questions for Chairman Ma: Has China now denounced the use of force against Taiwan? If national security is still a concern, why then on Tuesday did the pan-blue camp reject the defense ministry's arms procurement plan for the 55th time?

The pan-blues' demand that the Cabinet approve all enabling measures within three months is even more ridiculous. It took two years for Taiwan to negotiate direct flights with Vietnam, two years for Korea to negotiate direct flights with China and 14 years for a similar deal between Japan and China. These examples illustrate how many technical issues there are to be taken care of when introducing transport links.

If Ma were the president of Taiwan now, would he be able to meet the three-month demand asked by the opposition? Sure, direct cross-strait links can provide various goodies, such as helping reduce travel time, the one major concern to businesspeople.

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