Wed, Feb 02, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Beijing envoys arrive to mourn Koo

COMPATRIOT GAMES Sun Yafu is in Taiwan to extend condolences over the recent passing of Koo Chen-fu on behalf of his boss, cross-strait negotiator Wang Daohan

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The highest ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in a decade yesterday arrived in Taipei for the memorial service of Taiwan's top cross-strait negotiator, Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫).

"We are here to convey our condolences on behalf of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait [ARATS] chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) and to pass our respects on to all of our Taiwanese compatriots," said Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), ARATS vice chairman and deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), after arriving at CKS International Airport yesterday afternoon.

Sun, together with ARATS secretary-general Li Yafei (李亞飛) and research department director Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), are acting as Wang's personal envoys.

Koo and Wang made international headlines with groundbreaking negotiations known as the "Koo-Wang Talks." As the respective heads of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and ARATS -- semi-official organizations overseeing cross-strait ties in the absence of formal relations -- Koo and Wang met in 1993 in Singapore and later in 1998 in Beijing. The 1993 meeting paved the way for cross-strait communication, and the 1998 meeting was hailed as a resumption of dialogue following former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) visit to the US in 1995.

Sun is the most senior official from the Taiwan Affairs Office to have visited Taiwan since 1995, when ARATS vice chairman and Taiwan Affairs Office deputy director Tang Shubei (唐樹備) met Chiao Jen-ho (焦仁和), a former SEF secretary-general. Beijing has stressed, however, that Sun is visiting Taiwan strictly in his capacity as an envoy.

Sun, who last visited Taiwan 12 years ago, told reporters on the flight yesterday that he was looking forward to his visit.

"I really hope to visit Taiwan again, to understand Taiwan and get to know how the people in Taiwan live," he said.

Before arriving in Taipei, Sun and the rest of the delegation stopped in Shanghai to pick up a letter for Koo's wife, Cecilia Koo (辜嚴倬雲), that Wang had written in his own hand.

Sun declined to say whether he would attend the memorial service given that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will be in attendance. He said his attendance would depend on the Koo family's arrangements.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said that there were no arrangements for council officials to meet Sun and Li. MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said that Beijing wanted to play down the political nature of the trip and did not want to mislead people into thinking that it marked a resumption of cross-strait negotiations.

For this reason, he said, there were no arrangements for the delegation to meet with MAC or SEF officials.

The Chinese officials were welcomed yesterday at the airport by SEF chief secretary Lin Shu-min (林淑閔) and legal affairs director Ho Wu-liang (何武良).

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