Thu, Jun 09, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US calls on Beijing to talk to Chen

NO CONDITIONS In his testimony to Congress, the State Department's top East Asia official said that China should drop its insistence on `one China'

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US for the first time has called on China to engage in dialogue with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his government without the conditions demanded by Beijing, which have stymied efforts to ease cross-strait tensions ever since Chen was elected president in 2000.

The call came from the State Department's top East Asia official at a congressional hearing on the economic and security aspects of China's emergence as an East Asian regional power.

Enunciating the US position on cross-strait talks, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Christopher Hill, said, "Our view is that dialogue should just be dialogue, and should not be centered on any conditions."

But Beijing is not yet ready to engage in cross-strait dialogue under such unconditional terms, Hill told the hearing.

China has repeatedly said a dialogue with Chen or the DPP government is possible only under the "one China" principle.

Nevertheless, he called the recent trips to China by opposition leaders KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) a possible "basis for a substantive dialogue" between China and the Chen government.

In his testimony before the panel, the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hill was not asked about, and did not comment on, Chen's statement earlier this week saying that the US would be a good third-party venue for any talks between himself and Chinese President Hu Juntao (胡錦濤).

Asked about the Lien and Soong visits, Hill said, "the dialogue with the opposition leaders was a good step, and I think it allowed for a change in the dynamic following the `Anti-Secession' Law," referring to the law that the rubber-stamp National People's Congress passed in March at the insistence of the Hu government, which legalizes a Chinese military attack on Taiwan.

"Whether they are able to capitalize on this step, whether they are able to follow through, remains to be seen. The Beijing government is not yet prepared to deal with the elected authorities of Taiwan because they're expecting conditions with the elected authorities set forward," Hill said, as determined by a tape of his remarks before the subcommittee.

He then expressed the US view that talks should take place without pre-conditions.

In his prepared written testimony, Hill said it is "crucial" that China go beyond the recent Lien-Soong visits and "take the important next step of reaching out to elected representatives in Taiwan. We believe that recently stated positions on both sides of the strait incorporate elements of flexibility that could form the basis of substantive dialogue."

He did not give details of the reasons for his conclusions.

Hill reiterated earlier US pronouncements that the US government "strongly encourages cross-strait dialogue of all forms," which has led the State Department earlier this year to "welcome" the opposition leaders' trips.

Hill also repeated US criticism of the "Anti-Secession" Law, calling it "unfortunate" and "unhelpful" and an action that did not contribute to cross-strait dialogue.

Hill later asserted that "there is absolutely no other way" to settle the cross-strait issue than by peaceful means, "and the way to solve it is to have dialogue."

In other matters, Hill said that despite Taiwan's failure again last month to gain observer status in the World Health Assembly, the US continues to support that goal, which "does not conflict with our one-China policy."

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