Fri, Oct 18, 2002 - Page 1 News List

China's new stance seen as good sign

DIRECT LINKS Government officials are cautiously optimistic about Beijing's decision to stop viewing cross-strait ties strictly as a domestic issue

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan yesterday cautiously welcomed China's softened rhetoric in defining direct links between the two sides as a "cross-strait" rather than "domestic" issue.

During an interview with Taiwanese journalists in Beijing Wednesday, Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) painted direct links -- mail, trade and transport -- between Taiwan and China as an economic matter for which recognition of "one China" is not required to get talks going.

"Direct links is an economic issue, not a political one," Qian said. "[China] will treat direct transport as being cross-strait in nature and set aside the `one China' principle when approaching it."

National Security Council Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) said Qian's latest remarks, if accurately quoted, are worthy of encouragement.

"By labeling the issue as cross-strait rather than domestic, China has adjusted its attitude toward direct links," Chiou told a legislative committee yesterday. "That adjustment is worth encouraging. Still, the two sides should sit down and talk over further details."

Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟), who also took part in the committee meeting, echoed the view.

He said the DPP government does not reject full-scale exchanges with China provided they are conducted under the principle of dignity and parity and do not pose a threat to the nation's security.

Over the years, China had consistently defined proposed direct transportation across the Strait as a "special domestic" issue. Last July, Qian said Beijing would downplay the "one China" condition in a bid to promote direct links, provided they are considered domestic.

In yet another concession, Qian said Wednesday the matter should be kept strictly between the two sides and that no ship or airplane needs to carry a national flag when crossing the Strait.

"Ships entering Chinese ports need only to display their corporate flags," Qian was quoted as saying. "What flags they carry on the high seas is not our concern."

Qian added he believes obstacles to cross-strait air travel could be settled in a similar fashion.

"What matters most is the interests of the air companies involved. It should be up to them to discuss things," he said.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) was encouraged by China's change of attitude.

"It is a [sign of] progress for Beijing to stave off the `one China' issue and portray direct transportation links as cross-strait routes," Lin said while briefing the legislature on his ministry's spending plan for next year.

Saying the matter falls outside his jurisdiction, the minister declined to make further comments.

In the past, Beijing had insisted Taipei first recognize the "one China" principle before seeking to resume dialogue.

While willing to tone down his pro-independence language, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) refused to bow to this demand.

Wary of cross-strait entanglement, TSU lawmakers, however, warned the Chen administration not to be taken in by the latest Chinese propaganda.

"The government must not back down in defining cross-strait links as an international issue," TSU legislative whip Lin Chih-lung (林志隆) said. "In a sincere show of goodwill, China should first dismantle its more than 400 missiles targeting Taiwan."

Huang Chung-yung (黃宗源), another TSU legislator, agreed, saying the country must think twice before jumping to integrate its economy with China's.

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