Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Soong eager as Chen fishes for cross-party talks

FLEXIBLE CONDITIONS James Soong says he is happy to do business with the president, but first the DPP will have to adjust its independence platform

By Caroline Hong and Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun yesterday said he is attempting to arrange a meeting between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and opposition leaders after the Lunar New Year holiday.

"President Chen instructed me to push forward with cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties," the former premier said in an interview with a local TV station.

Yu took up his new post on Tuesday.

"[Chen] asked me to make appropriate preparations in regard to this matter and expressed the hope that after the Lunar New Year holidays there would be an opportunity for him to meet opposition leaders," he said.

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) appeared briefly with Chen yesterday at the memorial service for deceased Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫).

Soong said he would meet Chen after the Lunar New Year to discuss the political situation and reconciliation between the nation's three main parties.

Acknowledging Soong's comments, Yu said "the possibility of a meeting between Chen and Soong taking place is very likely."

He said Chen had instructed him about what topics should be covered at the meeting.

"President Chen feels that everyone should put controversial issues to one side for now and talk about things that are more relevant to public welfare, such as health insurance, law and order, tax reform and the like," Yu said. "Mr. Soong's meeting with President Chen would also signify that he has recognized that Chen's presidency is legitimate."

But Soong also hinted that a condition for talks and possible cross-party cooperation would be an adjustment to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) independence platform.

"I hope that the PFP can break the ice between the ruling and opposition parties over cross-strait relations. However, for this to happen, I need a tool to break the ice. We hope that the DPP can adjust its platform on Taiwanese independence to give us that tool," Soong said.

"The PFP and I are not looking to swap favors or receive offers for office. We are very flexible, and have no preset conditions for talking with President Chen," he said. "However, if the DPP does not change its position on Taiwanese independence, then not even the gods will be able to help it with cross-strait negotiations."

Soong said that any talks with Chen would take place after Lunar New Year, which would allow party officials to arrange matters.

"There is no timetable for the talks. I suggested that they take place after Lunar New Year to give the parties time to think. Our party's staff needs to meet first as well, otherwise when we meet nothing will get done," Soong said.

He also said he hoped to discuss the PFP's proposed cross-strait peace advancement law (兩岸和平促進法).

The law, a draft of which was released by the PFP in October, seeks to establish a framework for cross-strait negotiations and formalize the status quo with a cross-strait treaty. Since then, the DPP administration has proposed forming a cross-strait peace committee. The DPP's legislative caucus has recommended that Soong chair that body.

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