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Fri, Jan 28, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Candidates use CNN to stump

INTERNATIONAL PUBLICITY Lien Chan, Chen Shui-bian and James Soong assured a worldwide audience yesterday of their moderate stances on cross-strait ties

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The three main presidential candidates appeared to skirt around the issue of Taiwan independence during interviews broadcast on CNN yesterday, with each presenting moderate views consistent with a public consensus on cross-strait relations supporting the status quo.

During Vice President and KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan's (連戰) interview, taped in a Taipei television studio, he attempted to dampen recent speculation that he has been backing away from President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "state-to-state" declaration of last July.

"The statement on `state-to-state relations' is simply a description of the existing situation. It is a constant position of my country," Lien told Mike Chinoy, CNN's Beijing-based correspondent.

Lien's apparent reluctance to use "state-to-state" in recent discussions on cross-strait relations has triggered speculation in both domestic and international media that he has begun distancing himself from Lee's policies.

During Chinoy's interview with DPP presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the former Taipei mayor repeated his "softened" pro-independence stance.

Beijing has said publicly that Chen would be an "unacceptable winner" in Taiwan's March 18 election.

"I would not declare Taiwan independence, and I believe peace and security are the common interests of people on both sides of the Strait. And therefore we have proposed a `new middle way'," Chen said.

Chen's "new middle way" aims to establish a middle -- albeit more vague -- ground between eventual reunification and independence, according to DPP sources.

Chen also reiterated that he would not amend the country's constitution to make room for Lee's "state-to-state" concept. He also said he would not change Taiwan's official name to reflect Taiwan's de facto independence if elected.

In a third CNN interview, independent presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) tread a delicate balance between a relatively more pro-reunification stance and criticism of Lee's "state-to-state" notion.

"The Republic of China on Taiwan is not a local government of the People's Republic of China," Soong said. "On the other hand, we cannot call that [relations] 100 percent international."

Soong told Chinoy that cross-strait relations are "quasi-international" -- with the two sides maintaining special ties that other countries do not have.

In related news, most public opinion polls nationwide have indicated that either Soong or Chen are running in first or second place, with Lien trailing.

In addition to the CNN interviews, Chen and Soong also explained their positions on cross-strait relations in recent interviews with Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Mann, who was visiting Taiwan from his base in Washington for some pre-election reporting.

Lien, however, refused Mann's request for an interview, apparently due to the fallout from a recent Times column in the form of an "open letter" to President Lee.

In that column, Mann wrote that the US government is not worried about whether the KMT stays in power, but whether Lee will allow a smooth transition of power to take place after the March election.

Mann wrote in a new column published on Wednesday that no matter which candidate wins the election, the KMT is heading for an inevitable downfall.

"All dynasties eventually fall. This could be the KMT's year," Mann wrote.

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