Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

SEF plays down premature announcement

By Ko Shu-ling and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) yesterday downplayed the fact that Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) beat the SEF by one day in announcing that a preparatory meeting for the upcoming cross-strait high-level talks would be held on Saturday.

SEF Deputy Secretary-General Maa Shaw-chang (馬紹章) laughed after reporters asked him whether they had been surprised by Lai’s announcement on Tuesday.

In an attempt to smooth things over, Maa said they had originally planned to make the announcement yesterday.

While China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) did not confirm Lai’s announcement, Maa yesterday said the TAO had said it would “carefully consider and study” the proposal.

Maa said that Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Deputy Chairman Zheng Lizhong (鄭立中) was scheduled to lead a delegation of about 20 officials that is scheduled to arrive in Taipei tomorrow afternoon.

Maa said every effort would be made to keep the visit safe, comfortable, dignified and smooth.

The preparatory meeting will discuss the time, place and agenda for the upcoming meeting between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his counterpart, ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

They are also expected to discuss the content of the three agreements both sides plan to sign during the Chiang-Chen meeting as well as a joint statement about Chinese investment in the local market.

Maa said the details of the preparatory meeting would be made public if both sides reached an agreement.

The delegation is scheduled to leave on Sunday.

While the upcoming meeting is scheduled for next month or in June, Lai said it would be held sooner rather than later if both sides could reach a consensus.

Maa yesterday echoed comments by the TAO, saying that both sides were aiming for the Chiang-Chen meeting to be held at the end of this month or at the beginning of next month.

As both sides agreed at their last meeting that the next one would be held outside Beijing, Taipei has proposed that it be held in Nanjing.

Ma yesterday said the meeting would likely last five days, with talks between Chiang and Chen scheduled for the second day. Chiang was scheduled to visit Taiwanese businesspeople on the third and fourth days before he and his delegation return home the following day.

Recent reports have speculated that Ma was seeking to replace Wu as party chief, while Wu would replace Chiang at the SEF.

Meanwhile, amid speculation that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) would take over the SEF after being replaced by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a KMT legislator close to Chiang said yesterday that Chiang was very disappointed to be involved in a party power struggle.

KMT Legislator Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進), who spoke to Chiang on Tuesday, told reporters in the legislature that Chiang was also saddened by media allegations that Chiang’s son had obtained a special permit from China to sell steel.

Lee said the controversy was fueled by “a well-organized group of people within the party” who did not want to see warming cross-strait relations, without giving names.

While meeting Wu at party headquarters on Tuesday, Ma said he would not make a final decision about the chairmanship until June, but did not deny the possibility that he could run in the election scheduled to be held in July.

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