China has accepted Taiwan’s invitation to hold cross-strait talks on direct charter flights and opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists, to be held in Beijing from June 12 to June 14, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said yesterday.
Chiang made the announcement after Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) replied to his request on Monday for talks.
China’s Xinhua news agency quoted the ARATS letter as saying: “We hope the talks will make progress on the two issues to meet the expectations of people from both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait.”
Taiwan’s delegation will arrive in Beijing on June 11. The SEF and ARATS deputy secretaries-general will meet the next morning to hammer out the details. The deputy chairmen will meet that afternoon to hammer out a draft of the document and the final documents will be signed by the chairmen on the June 13, Chiang said.
The Beijing talks will be the first official cross-strait negotiations since 1999.
“Both sides have reached a level of consensus on the two issues. We hope to complete the deal on the upcoming trip to commence weekend direct charter flights and allow Chinese tourists to come to Taiwan in the near future,” Chiang said.
Both Beijing and Taipei have publicly set the first weekend of July as the date for both flights and tourists to become a reality.
Chiang said he has already asked SEF Vice Chairman Kao Kong-lian (高孔廉), who doubles as the foundation’s secretary-general, to put together the delegation for the Beijing talks from the SEF board and industry representatives.
The delegation members will not be named until shortly before the trip, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said.
Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) told a press conference yesterday afternoon that both cargo and passenger flights would be included under the direct charter flight umbrella, even though the issue of passenger transport would take priority to accommodate the influx of Chinese tourists expected in July.
Council Vice Chairman Fu Don-cheng (傅棟成) said passengers of all nationalities with legal travel documents to enter either Taiwan or China would be allowed to use the passenger flights.
Meanwhile, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to be patient in negotiating with Beijing and refrain from compromising the nation’s sovereignty and dignity.
He said he supported peaceful interaction and mutual respect in the Taiwan Strait, but saw no need to rush to see immediate results.
“There is no hurry to come to a conclusion and there is no need to make unnecessary compromises,” he said.
The negotiators must take into consideration the feeling of the Taiwanese because people are watching what they are doing, he said.
“Compromise is easy, but it takes wisdom to protect national dignity without provoking a fight,” he said.
While the KMT administration has promised to secure weekend charter flights and more Chinese tourists by July 4, Hsieh said he did not think Taiwanese would force the government to get results.
As for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) promise to help Taiwan participate in WHO activities, Hsieh said that was all well and good, but any negotiations must be conducted with equality and dignity.
DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the SEF and ARATS must set the course for the negotiations rather than letting the communication platform between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party take the lead.