Sat, May 07, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bush to Hu Jintao: Talk to Chen

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON , WITH AFP

Taiwan's government yesterday thanked US President George W. Bush for calling on Beijing to talk to the Democratic Progressive Party government, saying direct dialogue was essential to bettering cross-strait relations.

"Many high-ranking US officials have repeatedly urged Beijing to talk to Taiwan's elected government and its leader ... and we thank and welcome President Bush's words," Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) said.

Bush on Thursday personally urged Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to talk directly with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to find a peaceful solution to cross-strait issues, as Washington steps up its campaign to pressure Hu into initiating government-to-government discussions.

Bush made his plea during a phone call with Hu that appeared to center on Taiwan and North Korea.

"President Hu briefed the president on the historic visits to China by opposition leaders," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said during his daily press briefing. "The president urged President Hu to continue working on ways to reach out to President Chen as the duly elected leader of Taiwan."

While McClellan said the Bush administration "appreciates" the pan-blue-camp visits to China, he repeated statements that he and other US spokesmen have made over the past two weeks endorsing a Hu-Chen dialogue.

"We continue to urge dialogue between Taiwan and China to promote peace and stability in the region, and the president and President Hu talked about that in their conversation today," he said. "We appreciate that President Hu met with some of the opposition leaders. We believe dialogue is important."

However, he went on, "we believe, ultimately ... that there needs to be continued dialogue with the duly elected leaders in Taiwan, and that means President Chen and his Cabinet."

"That's the best way to continue to promote peace and stability in the cross-strait region," he said.

While the administration at first welcomed contact between the opposition leaders and Beijing, in recent weeks it has shifted its stance, emphasizing the need for Beijing to talk with Chen. The latest conversation intensifies these efforts and is the first time that Bush has inserted himself into the efforts.

Meanwhile, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said the visits to China by opposition leaders were a "positive development, moving in the right direction."

Zoellick's praise, though, was qualified.

"It's too soon to tell the exact direction of this," he said.

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