Fri, Feb 25, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen, Soong sign 10-point consensus

MILESTONE The president and the PFP chairman agreed on the need for defensive weapons, establishing a cross-Strait peace framework and the need for ethnic harmony

By Caroline Hong and Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian, right, smiles after a successful meeting with PFP Chairman James Soong, left, at the Taipei Guest House yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Marking a milestone in interparty cooperation, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) held a historic meeting yesterday where they reached a consensus to acknowledge and respect the current definition of Taiwan's status, create a legal basis for cross-strait peace, and reiterated their support for the Republic of China.

After the meeting at the Taipei Guest House yesterday morning, Chen and Soong signed a joint 10-point agreement on cross-strait relations, national defense and ethnic reconciliation. The consensus was hailed as the beginning of dialogue and discussion between the governing and opposition camps.

"The results of today's discussion highlight two important things. First, that governing and opposition camp's cooperation and interparty cooperation is possible. There are no insurmountable differences between parties and political figures. So long as everyone sits down with the people's interests in mind, it is possible make big steps towards reconciliation," Chen said during a joint press conference held after the summit yesterday afternoon.

"Second, cooperation does not mean forsaking ideology. Chairman Soong and the PFP still have beliefs they insist on. I and the DPP also have beliefs that we have never betrayed. As long as parties trust and respect each other, they can take steps in the same direction," the president added.

Six of the 10 points in the consensus focused on cross-strait relations and issues related to the nation's status, and included a promise to seek a consensus from governing and opposition parties in creating a legal basis for creating a mechanism for cross-strait relations.

"We agreed that there must be a cross-strait peace mechanism and a legal basis for such a mechanism," Soong said yesterday.

The PFP's position, highlighted by Soong yesterday, is that such a body is necessary to allow not only the PFP, but all parties and the Taiwanese people, to be involved in the future of cross-strait relations.

Asked if he and Soong had agreed on the details of such a mechanism, Chen said that the 10-point consensus marks the future direction of cross-strait policy.

Furthermore, regardless of if the proposed mechanism mirrors the PFP's Cabinet-backed committee for cross-Strait peace and development or is composed in a different way, Chen said he welcomes any positive contributions from other parties.

In light of the PFP's long-standing opposition to the original NT$610.8 billion (US$19.6 billion) arms procurement budget, media attention yesterday focussed on the two politicians' agreement that Taiwan should not engage in an arms race with China, while agreeing on the need to purchase defensive arms. While the PFP has not changed its position on the arms budget, it acknowledges the need for national defense, Soong said. The party maintains that the budget needs to undergo further revisions.

Second Meeting

The historic Chen-Soong summit was the first time the two politicians have met to discuss issues since a similar meeting took place in 2000. An important factor leading to the success of the talks was that there was no election pressure in this time's dialogue. Also, said Chen and Soong, both are older and wiser this time around.

"Four years ago, A-bian was not a grandfather yet. But now that A-bian, like Soong, is a grandfather, I have a different mentality," said Chen yesterday, referring to the birth of his two grandsons in recent years.

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