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Sat, May 27, 2000 - Page 3 News List

A handshake and a smile disarm Chinese minister

ICE BREAKER At an APEC meeting in Mexico, Taiwan gave some of what China keeps asking for

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, CANCUN, MEXICO

Telecommunications ministers from both sides of the Taiwan Strait exchanged greetings on Thursday at a ministerial-level meeting on telecommunications under the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Taiwan's Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) took the initiative to shake hands with mainland China's Minister of Information Technology and Telecom Industries Wu Jichuan (吳基傳) when they were touring a major tourist attraction in Cancun -- the Xcaret Nature Park.

Yeh, the first Cabinet member to attend an international meeting since the new government was inaugurated last Saturday, said she hopes to convey Taiwan's goodwill and friendship to China through a handshake and greeting with her Beijing counterpart.

"At first, he [Wu Jichuan] was a little bit afraid of me," she said "but how can he reject a confident, friendly handshake?"

The DPP's Yeh said she is willing to explore every possible cooperative opportunity with China on an "equal, reciprocal" basis.

She also promised that the new government will try its best to narrow the gap between the poor and rich widened by the development of the information industry.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to promoting the opening of direct trade, communications and transportation links across the Taiwan Strait, commonly known as the "three links" (三通).

As a direct communications link does not involve exchanges of personnel, many people believe that direct cross-strait postal and telecommunications services can be implemented first. Commenting on the proposal, Yeh said national security should be ensured while tackling a problem as critical as the "three links" issue.

The legislator-turned-minister further said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait must negotiate many technical problems before direct cross-strait communications and transportation services can be opened.

Asked about China's stance on the "three links" issue, the Chinese information and telecommunication minister said opening the "three links" was first promoted by China.

"We hope cross-strait telephone, Internet and e-mail services can be conducted directly," Wu said, adding that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have wasted a lot of money under the current indirect arrangements.

Noting that the development of telecommunication business has long followed the principles of equality, reciprocity and "users pay," Wu said he sees no serious problems for the opening of direct cross-strait communications links.

Wu further said China's Ministry of Information and Telecom Industries has drawn up regulations governing telecommunication services in preparation for opening its telecom market to foreign investment.

If all goes well, Wu said, the new regulations will be put into force this summer. "By then, Taiwan companies can also invest in our telecom industries," Wu said, adding that investment from Taiwan, Hong Kong and foreign countries will all be subject to the same ceilings set in the new regulations.

APEC, a 21-member regional trade and economic cooperation forum, is one of the few international organizations which accommodate both Taipei and Beijing as full members.

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