Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Lee Yuan-tseh fails to deliver message

SPECIAL ENVOY Taiwan's representative to the regional meeting met with the Chinese president, but did not make good on his pledge to stress Chen's peace overtures

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN SANTIAGO, CHILE

Chile's President Richardo Lagos reads a declaration during the 2004 APEC meeting in Santiago on Sunday, before the leaders of other world economies.

PHOTO: YEH CHIH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special envoy to APEC did not stress the recent peace overtures made by Taiwan when he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Sunday.

Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), the president of Academia Sinica, and Hu held a short but unprecedented meeting, but failed to discuss cross-strait matters.

"What happened was, at the APEC meeting Lee Yuan-tseh, the representative from Taiwan, came to President Hu and they did have a brief conversation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan (孔泉) said, according to news wire reports. "The core element of their conversation was that President Hu emphasized that the `one China' principle must be adhered to. So if Lee Yuan-tseh called the meeting cordial, it must be because they discussed the `one China' principle."

Lee declined to comment on Kong's allegation of his having discussed the "one China" principle.

While Lee said that he would reiterate the recent string of goodwill gestures extended by Chen when he met Hu, Lee said that he failed to do so on Sunday because as a scientist, he disliked repetition and he believed that Hu must have learned of the message from the media.

When asked whether Chen would feel disappointed over his failing to deliver the message to Hu, Lee said that he did not think the president would be disappointed.

"The time was so limited that it was hard to discuss such complicated issues [as cross-strait relations] and it's not the main purpose of my trip," he said. "I come here as a scientist representing Taiwan to discuss economic and scientific issues at an economic forum. I don't think it's appropriate to discuss such a complex issue in such a short time. Besides, it's the responsibility of the president to improve cross-strait relations."

Describing Hu as a friendly person and someone who can easily talk, Lee said that the atmosphere of their conversation was cordial, and he felt a sense of trust and goodwill from him.

As Chen has extended goodwill gestures to China in several occassions, Lee said that the ball is in Beijing's court.

"It's as if I like a woman so much that I want to marry her, but I won't be able to do it if she doesn't trust me," he said.

"The best thing for me to do here is to try to establish friendship and mutual trust with Hu. I know many people have a lot of expectations for me. I did my best, but I hope you realize that it's impossible for me to turn things around in a couple of days."

In other news, Japan will soon grant Taiwanese tourists a visa-free privilege, Lee said.

"Prime Minister Koizumi took the initiative to tell me that Taiwanese tourists would soon be entitled to visa-free entry," Lee said.

When asked whether the visa-free entry is a permanant measure for Taiwanese tourists or only a temporary move for the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Lee said Koizumi did not elaberate.

"Since our meeting was brief, we did not have enough time to discuss related details," Lee said.

The Sankei Shimbun, a major Japanese daily, last week carried a front-page story saying the Japanese government was working to grant Taiwanese tourists a visa-exempt status from next March until September in a bid to attract Taiwanese tourists to the Aichi exposition.

Japan has granted Taiwanese tourists a 3-day landing visa. For longer stays in the country, Taiwanese residents have to apply for a visa in advance.

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