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Sat, Feb 19, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Siew boosts `peace zone' plan

FINAL APPEARANCE In his last administrative report, the premier endorsed Lien Chan's plan for direct links between China and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Premier Vincent Siew, the KMT's vice presidential candidate, used the occasion of his last administrative report as premier to the legislature yesterday to boost a proposal made by Vice President and KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) on Thursday to establish a "peace zone" in the Taiwan Strait.

The proposal came as part of Lien's China policy, unveiled on Thursday.

Central to the peace zone concept is the opening of direct commercial, communications and transportation links between China and the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, the so-called "little three links" (小三通).

"In the coming period, we will seek to eliminate differences of opinion between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. We hope to replace confrontation between the two sides with dialogue and interchange. At the same time, we will actively promote the establishment of a peace zone [in Kinmen and Matsu] in the Strait," Siew said.

Siew pointed out however that the proposal did not mean the relaxation of security around the islands.

"We also have to realize that before China's military threats to Taiwan are gone, Taiwan will not give up its defensive build-up efforts," Siew said.

However, the peace zone proposal got a mixed reception from the legislature.

KMT lawmaker Tsao Erh-chung (曹爾忠), elected from Matsu, expressed support for the proposal, saying it would pave the way for direct transportation links between China and Taiwan proper in the future -- a development envisaged by Lien in his policy statement.

New Party lawmaker Li Chu-feng (李炷烽), however, representing Kinmen, considered the proposal to be nothing more than a "vote-winning" chip.

"It reminds me of the bridge the government promised to build to connect Kinmen proper and Little Kinmen island years ago. Every time there was an election, the bridge plan would be brought up," Li said. "Eight years have passed now. The bridge exists only people's talk."

Siew also said that while the government's "go slow, be patient" stance on cross-strait investment is the current policy, it is by no means unchangeable.

He added that if cross-strait relations are markedly improved, and the rights of Taiwan businessmen duly protected, the policy could be adjusted.

Siew noted several successes of his Cabinet including the nation's emerging unscathed from the regional financial storm and weathering the 921 earthquake last year.

He also said that the government will push for a new wave of reforms and try to root out "black gold" politics, adding that substantive measures in this regard include the promulgation of the law regarding disclosure of the assets of civil servants, and the government procurement law.

The government would also work on the Political Party Law, the Law Governing Political Donations and the Lobbying Law, Siew said.

Siew was initially scheduled to talk yesterday about the purchase of Patriot PAC-III missile systems from the US and deployment of them in central and southern Taiwan.

However, sources said that the content about missiles was removed from Siew's speech for fear that premature exposure of the deployment plan might encourage China to lodge protests with the US leading to possible cancellation of the deal.

US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott concluded two days of talks in Beijing yesterday in which he had what he described as "intense" discussions with Chinese officials relating to Taiwan's security concerns.

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