Tue, Jan 23, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Qian Qichen urges Taiwan to restart negotiations

CROSS-STRAIT The Chinese vice premier blamed Taiwan for the current impasse in relations, stressing again that the `one China' principle was not up for negotiation

STAFF WRITER , WITH REUTERS

China's top foreign policy official urged Taiwan yesterday to move toward political talks and warned the US to stay out of the dispute between China and Taiwan.

In a speech carried by Xinhua news agency, Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) also urged Taiwan to accept direct trade links with the mainland and promised Beijing would respect the will of Taiwan's people during and after unification.

Qian blamed Taipei for the impasse in relations, saying its refusal to acknowledge that Taiwan was part of China was "the source of current tension across the Taiwan Strait."

And in a message to US President George W. Bush -- perceived by China as being friendlier to Taiwan than his predecessor -- Qian said China "resolutely opposes any foreign forces interfering with China's resolving the Taiwan problem."

"We hope that a big power with major responsibility for world peace ... will honor its solemn pledges to the Chinese government on the Taiwan question and not take any actions that lead to heightened cross-strait tensions," Qian said.

Last week, US Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell reiterated the US' long-standing commitment to the "one China" principle -- a core demand of Beijing. But Powell also said he opposed unification by force and promised to provide for Taiwan's defense needs.

Qian's speech to mark the anniversary of President Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) 1995 appeal for unification did not contain any new offers for Taiwan.

But the remarks by Qian, who earlier this year introduced more flexibility to China's tough terms for contacts, took note of goodwill gestures by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that were previously dismissed or ignored by Beijing.

"Taiwan authorities have already said the `one China' principle does not present a problem," Qian said, referring to an attempt by Taiwan last month to find terminology acceptable to Beijing.

"If that's the case, then why don't they clearly accept the `one China' policy? The `one China' policy cannot be evaded or fudged," he said, without mentioning Chen by name.

Qian said China would "fully respect the wishes of Taiwan compatriots and sincerely protect their interests whether in the process of unification or after achieving unification".

But he indicated China would continue to ignore Chen's government, vowing to work with "all Taiwan political parties and factions who approve of the `one China' principle."

Last Friday, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), head of the Mainland Affairs Council, said Taipei preferred to keep its options open and that Taiwan needed time to form an internal consensus on the issue. Tsai said she hoped the new Bush administration would help stabilize the situation in the Taiwan Strait and not "preclude any possibility."

Speaking to a Taiwan scholar yesterday, Qian said the "one China" principle is a tool for preventing Taiwan independence.

"`One China' is no longer just a principle," Qian said during a meeting with Andy Chang (張五岳), a professor of China studies at Tamkang University.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Chang said that Qian's reiteration of his relatively liberal interpretation was meant for both the domestic and international audiences.

The "one China" principle has become less important to Beijing, but it is still mentioned from time to time to meet "domestic needs," Chang said.

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