Beijing open to Ma-Xi meeting in a ‘third location’

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Mar 05, 2014 - Page 1

There is plenty of “room for imagination” about a proposed summit between the leaders of China and Taiwan, including the possibility of holding the meeting in a “third location (第三地),” China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Vice Chairman Sun Yafu (孫亞夫) said yesterday.

On where such a summit might be held, Beijing’s position is “for the two sides of the Strait to find a place” for the meeting, Sun told the Chinese-language United Daily News in an interview in Beijing.

That was the position of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), Sun said, adding that Zhang’s remarks were misinterpreted by some news media in Taiwan.

Zhang did not mean to say the summit should be held either in China or Taiwan, Sun said.

It is “too narrow” to read it that way, Sun said.

When asked whether Zhang meant that while Beijing has ruled out holding the meeting in an international setting, it could be held in a place other than China or Taiwan, such as Singapore, Sun said: “Yes. That’s it.”

The first high-level meeting between Taiwan and China took place in Singapore in April 1993, when then-ARATS chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) held talks with his Taiwanese counterpart, Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫).

There has been much speculation about President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to improve relations between the two sides.

It has been mooted that such a meeting could be held at the APEC leaders’ summit in Beijing later this year, but China has been cool to the idea, worried that Ma’s appearance at the international gathering would suggest Taiwan’s sovereignty.

China has consistently blocked Taiwan’s presidents from attending APEC meetings, forcing them to send envoys instead.

In the interview, Sun seemed to attach additional conditions to a Ma-Xi meeting, saying that in addition to a suitable venue, “we also need to think about the purpose of a top meeting, what problems it is to resolve and what topics will be on the agenda.”

“If the purpose of the meeting is to seek development in cross-strait relations, rather than just to shake hands, and if we plan a full program for our leaders’ meeting, then the room for imagination can be even bigger,” he said.

Sun gave the interview as he prepared to attend the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a member of the advisory body.

In response, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said that Taipei’s position remains the same: that the annual APEC forum offered the most appropriate setting for a Ma-Xi meeting.

Democratic Progressive Party spokesman Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said Ma should brief the Taiwanese public on any issues relating to a Ma-Xi meeting, “as the president represents the country and must uphold Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

“What’s the definition of a ‘third location? Does it mean a third country or a cross-strait third territory, such as Hong Kong or Macau?” Lin asked.

He said the Ma administration should conduct cross-strait affairs in a transparent manner.

Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang