Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) led a delegation of 16 KMT officials to China yesterday, vowing to help develop cross-strait peace while safeguarding the interests of Taiwanese.
“We can feel the heavy responsibility on our shoulders. We will do our best to play our roles [on cross-strait issues],” Wu said when approached for comment at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday morning.
“We hope that we will be able to facilitate the development of peace across the Taiwan Strait, ensure Taiwan’s safety, serve the people’s interests, promote the nation’s policy on China and realize President Ma [Ying-jeou’s (馬英九)] campaign platform,” he said.
Wu said Beijing’s willingness to arrange the meeting between KMT and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials amid Beijing’s current focus on earthquake relief in Sichuan Province highlighted the importance of cross-strait relations for both sides.
The meeting also symbolizes a new opportunity to improve relations between Taipei and Beijing, he said.
Wu flew to Nanjing via Hong Kong at the start of his six-day visit yesterday.
He is also scheduled to visit Shanghai, Beijing and Jiangsu.
He will pay homage to former KMT chairman Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) at Sun’s tomb in Nanjing today, where he said he would report the KMT’s victory in the March presidential election.
He will then fly to Beijing at 2pm, where he will dine with Jia Qinglin (賈慶林), head of the People’s Political Consultative Conference, at the Beijing Hotel.
He will visit the national stadium of the summer Beijing Olympic Games tomorrow, followed by a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
The meeting will mark the first formal contact between the leaders of the ruling parties on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since the Chinese civil war.
Wu dismissed yesterday media speculation that he arranged the trip to compete with former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) over the predominant role in dealing with cross-strait affairs within the KMT.
“This speculation is a joke,” Wu said. “I also participated in Mr Lien’s several trips to China ... we should cherish this platform [the KMT-CCP communication platform].”
“This is an asset in the development of cross-strait peace,” he said.
In related news, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) yesterday officially invited its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), to start negotiations on two issues after the Cabinet formally authorized the SEF to represent the government in talks about launching weekend direct charter flights and allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan by July.
The SEF and ARATS are the only two civic organizations authorized by Taipei and Beijing to represent the respective governments in talks on cross-strait issues.
MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) personally presented the authorization letter, signed by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), to the newly elected SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), minutes after he was elected by the SEF board.
Although the authorization letter stated that the government commissioned the SEF to speak on only two issues — weekend charter flights and allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan — the SEF said the authorization on weekend charter flights included passenger and cargo transport. Passenger transport, however, would be the main focus of the negotiations, it said.
Soon after Chiang’s election, the SEF notified ARATS on the new personnel arrangements and invited ARATS to resume cross-strait negotiations based on the so-called “1992 consensus.” Talk ceased in 1998. Later, the CCP refused to deal with the Democratic Progressive Party government because of what it termed the administration’s “push for Taiwan’s de jure independence.”
In his acceptance speech, Chiang vowed to ameliorate cross-strait relations based on the so-called “1992 consensus” from a Taiwan-centric approach, saying he would begin dialogue with Beijing soon after the election.
“We look forward to normalizing trade relations and increasing cultural exchanges between the two sides. Taiwan and China must shelve their differences and develop a better future in order safeguard the rights of people on both sides of the Strait,” Chiang said.
Chiang promised to quickly organize a team of top negotiators, but said that no talks would be held until ARATS had completed its personnel reshuffle.
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