Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 1 News List

James Soong is firming for a senior government office

By Debby Wu and Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Speculation that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) might be offered a key position in the Chen administration intensified yesterday as the caucuses of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the People First Party (PFP) continued to court one another.

Reports emerged that Soong might accept a purported offer by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to head the Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development, while another suggested that Soong was set to be made a government official.

It was also reported that DPP caucus whip and acting chairman Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) went to the US last week to meet Soong to persuade him to accept the offer.

But Ker denied the report yesterday and said he did not meet Soong in the US.

Sources said that Ker did go to the US last week with the hope of meeting Soong, but that Soong did not agree to a meeting out of concern that Ker might not relay his intentions accurately.

It is also understood that Chen is willing to offer a government position to Soong, but that Soong has not accepted anything to date.

Ker ramped up speculation about DPP-PFP cooperation yesterday, saying the next two weeks would be crucial for any deal.

Soong is expected to return on Tuesday from the US, where he has been on holiday.

Ker praised a statement by Soong released before he went abroad that the PFP would compete with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and cooperate with other parties on domestic issues.

Ker said the statement was cleverly put together.

"James Soong is a political figure who understands the political situation well.

"President Chen made it very clear in his New Year address that there is nothing that cannot be discussed relating to cross-party reconciliation under the principles laid out in the address," Ker said.

"The president's meeting with Legislative Speaker [Wang Jin-pyng] yesterday also demonstrated that he wanted to talk with the KMT about political stability," Ker said.

When asked whether Soong would be appointed head of the Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development, Ker said that Chen stated he wanted a leader from the opposition to head the committee, and that one of the two leaders would be chosen.

"I don't know whether the DPP is in touch with Soong. I am just the acting chairman and I haven't been in touch with him," Ker said.

Meanwhile, PFP caucus whip Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said that if the DPP gives up its independence platform and guards the sovereignty of the nation, the two parties would have "infinite" space for negotiation.

"Although there are many rumors about DPP-PFP cooperation, the PFP has two unchanging platforms: guarding the Republic of China and opposing independence, and never negotiating with other parties over government posts," Liu said.

Liu also denied that Soong had met Ker.

The PFP's central committee also denied that Soong had met with Ker yesterday. In a press conference held later yesterday, PFP spokesman Hsieh Kung-ping (謝公秉) insisted Soong did not meet DPP members while abroad.

Also see story:

DPP criticizes Lee Wen-chung

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