Tue, May 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen calls for cross-strait talks based on democracy

SINGING SALUTE Chen was treated to a choir and a parade while he spoke to the Marshallese Congress and spelled out his idea for a development program

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS

President Chen Shui-bian and Marshall Islands President Kessai Note yesterday wave to the press on a traditional catamaran.

PHOTO: CNA

During the second day of his Marshall Islands trip yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said that Beijing and Taipei should learn to trust each other in order to prevent a military confrontation. He also said that he is always willing to negotiate with the Chinese government under the principles of democracy and peace.

"The door to resolve cross-strait problems is always open if Beijing is willing to follow the principles of democracy and peace and talk to us," Chen said. "To affirm eternal peace between Beijing and Taipei is not something that can be accomplished immediately. But if we progress step by step, it will eventually come about."

Chen made his remarks while he was addressing the Marshall Islands' Senate yesterday morning. The president said that war results in suffering, hatred and sorrow.

"Only peace will bring about prosperity," the president said.

Chen also assured the Marshallese people that Taiwan will always be its friend and keep helping the country develop.

Chen addressed the Marshallese Senate around 10am yesterday morning. He said that both Taiwan and the Marshall Islands are maritime countries and thus share a kinship. Chen added Taiwan and the Marshall Islands love peace, and the two country's people will work hand in hand and help each other.

About 30 of the 33 Marshall Islands senators were present at Chen's address. Jally Morris, a 69-year-old local pastor who joined yesterday's event, said that Chen's visit to the Marshallese Senate is a milestone for the country.

"Chen is the first foreign leader to address the senate. It is the first time we have had so many reporters in the house to cover congressional news," Morris said.

To welcome Chen, the senate's official choir sang before and after his speech. The senators joined in the singing and assumed different roles. Some sang as tenors, while others sounded off as baritones and basses.

"Most Marshallese people are natural singers because we sing a lot during church services," Morris said.

After the speech, Chen joined an outdoor parade in front of the government building to celebrate the Marshall Islands' Constitution Day (Independence Day). Occasional rain interrupted the event, but the festivities were not cancelled.

In the afternoon, Chen reiterated his plan to help the Marshall Islands in its economic development.

"We will help the country build dry docks so the Marshall Islands can become a center of ship maintenance and repair industry in the region," Chen said.

Dry docks are maritime repair houses where a ship can be lifted out of the water and repaired.

The president also said that Taiwan will help the country develop its tourism industry.

Giff Johnson, editor-in-chief of the country's weekly newspaper, the Marshall Islands Journal, asked Chen whether the occasional rain upset him during the parade. Chen said that fortune tellers told him that he "needs water in his life" since part of his first name means "water" in Chinese. Thus, it is natural for him to be in the rain, he said.

"A rainbow or sunshine always shows up after the rain. That means things always get better after we go through difficulties," Chen said.

also see story:

Chen takes Note on board Taiwanese frigate

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