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Wed, May 03, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Commitment to reunify is `not possible for now'

STRAIT TALKING Taiwan cannot compromise on the `one China' principle until it becomes clear what the real business of unification would entail, a leading cross-strait affairs negotiator contends

By William Ide  /  STAFF REPORTER

One of Taiwan's leading cross-strait negotiators yesterday said the leadership of the incoming government is wise to reject any notion of compromise when it comes to Beijing's "one China" policy -- before having discussed exactly what a reunified China would actually entail.

"If you want to talk about political issues, I think the DPP is right to have taken the position it has," Wu Hsin-hsing (吳新興), Deputy Secretary General of the Straits Exchange Foundation, told the Taipei Times during an interview yesterday.

Despite Beijing's increased psychological pressure on the new government, President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has so far stood his ground -- expressing a willingness to talk with Beijing about "one China" as long as it is not a precondition or principle for any talks with Beijing. Instead, he has insisted it should merely be a topic for discussion.

Beijing insists that the solution is exactly the opposite.

Speaking last week at a cross-strait forum in Shenzhen, Tang Shubei (唐樹備), the vice secretary-general of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), said that the only way to avert military conflict is for Taiwan's new government to accept "one China" as a principle, and not as a topic of discussion.

Tang also promised equal footing for Taiwan, something Wu said the new government should be wary of.

Taiwan has given China as much as it can, almost everything except for its sovereignty, which is something it can't give up, Wu said.

Making a commitment to reunification at this point would be unwise, he added.

"The time is not right -- not for the new government and not for its people. It's better to wait and watch and see what happens to China," Wu said. "It would be unwise and unnecessary to make a commitment."

Wu was not only speaking about the current reality that the general public is opposed to reunification, but from his experiences and involvement in cross-strait affairs over the past 10 years.

"Every time Beijing makes an agreement, they go against it," Wu said.

One key example that can be pointed to is the previous agreement that stated that both sides of the Taiwan Strait were free to individually interpret what `one China' meant -- an agreement Beijing now rejects.

However, finding room to voice its position has become increasingly tricky for Taiwan, Wu said.

This is mostly because of the massive amount of investment Taiwanese have poured into China and the fact that some 200,000 Taiwanese now live in China.

"Technically speaking, they are hostages. From a negotiator's point of view, we are already standing in an unfavorable position. We need China more than China needs us," Wu said.

That's why the government in the past has been so adamant about its "no haste, be patient" policy -- to no avail though, Wu said.

"Water can work both ways -- it can keep a ship afloat and it can sink it," he said.

In such a bind, what Chen could do though to help him strike a balance between Beijing's demands and the demands of the public in Taiwan is focus on the Republic of China principle rather than the "one China" principle, Wu said.

"That's half-way between the two. It would show that the new government wants a policy of engagement."

This way, China could accept the gesture because it is not far enough away from "one China" to actually deny reunification at some point in the future, Wu said.

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