Former president Lee Teng-hui (
Lee made the remarks in an interview with cable station TVBS yesterday afternoon. The station broadcast the interview last night.
"I've never advocated things like pursuing Taiwan's independence in terms of law," he said. "It is wrong for an independent nation to seek independence."
"Taiwan is independent. It owns its sovereignty. How can we go back and pursue independence?" he asked. "The conflict [between pro-independence and pro-unification camps] has continued for the past seven or eight years, but what about the livelihoods of the public? None of these problems were solved."
Lee's remarks came as a clarification to comments attributed to him in an interview with Next Magazine.
The latest edition of the magazine, which hit newsstands yesterday, quoted Lee as saying that he had never been an advocate of independence.
The article prompted speculation that Lee might have changed his stance on the matter, given that Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-hui (
Taiwan is not a normal country yet, Lee told TVBS. He said the Constitution does not exist for the sake of Taiwan today and there was a need for the nation to change its title.
"We have to do these things now if we have the opportunity," he said.
The magazine article also quoted Lee as saying that he was in favor of allowing Chinese investors to invest in Taiwan, and that he would welcome opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists to correct Taiwan's "overdependence" on China's economy.
In the TVBS interview last night, Lee said more Chinese tourists should visit Taiwan because the "economic [relationship] should be two-way instead of one-way," but he said this relationship should be "state-to-state" in nature.
Earlier, Huang said that it was wrong to claim that Lee would like to accelerate Chinese investment for its own sake.
Lee believed that Taiwan had suffered too much capital flight to China and that the trend should be reversed, he said.
Huang said that Lee and the TSU's approach had always been a "Taiwan-centered" one.
The magazine also said Lee had been mulling over how to resolve the chasm between the pan-green and the pan-blue camps since last March and that he hoped the TSU, under Huang's leadership, would become Taiwan's new middle force.
Lee was also quoted as saying that he had been on poor terms with President Chen Shui-bian (
Lee said that he was different from Chen because he "believes in God and God's will cannot be betrayed," Lee was quoted as saying.
"In God's eyes, ministers and the believers are the same. When you die, you will be tried on whether you really insisted on justice when you were alive," Lee was quoted as saying when discussing his comments to several pro-Chen Presbyterian ministers last year during the period in which former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (
Lee was also quoted as saying that he thought KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma "deliberately works to create [his] charisma," Lee said.
When asked to comment on Lee's remarks, DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun said that his party respect any decision Lee would make but that he could not comment on Lee's opinions.
Ma, however, lauded Lee's comments, and said he expected more political leaders to make Taiwan's future their priority.
"Making Taiwan's future and public interests a priority has always been the KMT's policy. We will be more than happy if political leaders like Lee agree with us," Ma said.
Commenting on Lee saying that he hoped to visit China, Ma said the situation in Taiwan would have been better if Lee had made such a move five or six years ago.
But Ma dismissed Lee's comment that he lacked both resolve and courage, adding that he would like to visit the former president if possible.
In Beijing, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office refused to comment on Lee's reportedly hopes of visiting China.
At a regular scheduled news conference, Yang Yi (楊毅) said only that "we have noticed that report," when asked about Lee's comments.
Yang also declined to comment on reports that Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would visit China after the Lunar New Year holiday to attend a ceremony marking the establishment of a "national association of Taiwanese enterprises" in China.
Yang said Beijing was willing to have contact with any individual or organization in Taiwan as long as they acknowledged Beijing's "one China" policy and the so-called "1992 consensus" for talks on the development of cross-strait relations and on "eventual peaceful reunification of the two sides."
The "1992 consensus" refers to the cross-strait meeting held in Hong Kong in November 1992.
The KMT has long insisted that a consensus was reached at that meeting that both sides should adhere to the "one China" principle, but with each side agreeing to its own interpretation.
Eleven months ago KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) admitted he made up the term "1992 consensus" in 2000 before the transfer of power.
When asked about his reported comment that he was interested in traveling across the Strait, Lee told TVBS last night: "I did not say I wanted to visit China."
"[Such a visit] is unnecessary," he added.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih, staff writer and CNA
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