Fri, Jul 12, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chen says SEF won't be abolished

CROSS-STRAIT TIES The president apparently plans to revamp the agencies that deal with China affairs, but abolishing the most important one is not part of the plan

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) does not intend to abolish the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) as part of plans to reform the government apparatus that deals with cross-strait relations, a Presidential Office spokesman said yesterday.

"The president isn't preparing to replace or reorganize the personnel of the departments and institutes that deal with cross-strait affairs for the time being," James Huang (黃志芳), director-general of the Public Affairs Department of the Presidential Office, said yesterday.

"What the president wants to emphasize is that Taiwan can have many new channels to facilitate cross-strait negotiations or dialogue," he said.

"For example, the president will become the chairman of the ruling DPP later this month and, more importantly, both sides of the Strait are now members of the WTO, which allows the two sides to have direct dialogue on economic issues on an equal footing."

Therefore, Huang said, the president has indicated that the Cabinet should not replace any minister or official of the cross-strait mechanisms or abolish the SEF.

"Besides, the SEF is still the only channel authorized by the government to make contact with mainland China," Huang said.

Chen told reporters on Wed-nesday, while flying back to Taiwan with his delegation after a 10-day trip to four diplomatic allies in Africa, that the government would adjust the structure of its organizations and mechanisms in charge of China affairs, as ties between the two sides have undergone tremendous changes over the past decade.

Chen said that cross-strait relations have experienced noticeable changes both in quality and quantity and that "Taiwan cannot be blind to these facts at a time when two-way ties have come to a turning point."

Chen approved of the contributions made by SEF Chairman C. F. Koo and the foundation's employees in promoting cross-strait relations over the past 10 years and that he was convinced of the SEF's "historic importance." However, he added that "we cannot remain unchanged in changing times and we have to deal with cross-strait affairs with new thinking."

He said that the SEF had already accomplished its mission at this stage in the development of cross-strait relations, and "it is time to make some adjustment."

SEF Secretary-General Hsi Hwei-yo (許惠祐) responded to the president's remarks yesterday, saying that cross-strait negotiations had been deadlocked for a long time, so the president's comments on Wednesday showed he was willing to take initiatives and were meant to pinpoint how institutions handling the cross-strait issue should function in the face of a cross-strait standoff.

Hsi said that there were many government departments dealing with China affairs, including the National Unification Council (國統會), the National Security Council, the Mainland Affairs Council and the SEF. Some issues might involve other departments, so it was not clear which departments would be included in the structural adjustment that the president envisioned, he said.

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