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Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 3 News List

`Ball in Cabinet's court,' says Wang Jin-pyng

POWER PLANT POLITICS The speaker of the Legislative Yuan says negotiations on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant can begin again once construction resumes

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Though negotiations over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) have been halted since Tuesday, the opposition parties say talks could restart as soon as the DPP government orders construction of the project to continue.

"The ball is now in the Executive Yuan's court," Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday.

Wang was responding to a request from Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday to take up negotiations again. The KMT lawmaker said the opposition parties were still waiting for a formal response to a request made Tuesday that construction of the plant be restarted immediately.

But the DPP sees the demand as a conversation killer, and say the opposition parties are deliberately trying to avoid a final solution to the dispute.

So close, yet so far

Political watchers expect negotiations to be resumed soon, and say it would be a shame if a final deal regarding the nuclear power plant failed to materialize.

"There is already an agreement. The rest of the problem simply concerns revision of the wording and the order of priorities for each point of agreement," said KMT legislator Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖). "It would be a pity if the opposition coalition and ruling party screwed the matter up just because of the wording."

The latest chapter in the life of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant began last month, after the Council of Grand Justices said the Executive Yuan's Oct. 27 decision to scrap the plant had "procedural flaws."

Following the council's ruling, the opposition-controlled legislature passed a resolution demanding an immediate resumption of the plant's construction.

Though the Executive Yuan said the resolution was non-binding, it said it would negotiate a solution to the dispute and even telegraphed its willingness to complete the plant as a part of any agreement.

In return for going ahead with the plant, the DPP government and the opposition would agree to enact an energy law that would eventually lead to a nuclear-free country.

Sticking points

The two sides appeared to be moving toward an agreement. But the wording of the deal has lead to several sticking points.

In a proposal raised on Monday, the opposition coalition said the Executive Yuan should "accept the legislature's resolution" and resume construction of the plant immediately -- even though the Executive Yuan said it considered the resolution non-binding.

The Executive Yuan responded by saying it was willing to reactivate the project's budget and let the construction work continue "through the coordination of the president."

In addition, the Cabinet said subsequent budgets for the project should be handled by "the newly elected legislators based on the most recent public opinion," meaning those elected in December's legislative polls.

But the opposition balked at the idea, saying the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was a "major national affair" on which the legislature had the constitutional power to make resolutions, and thus did not require coordination by the president.

In addition, the opposition saw the DPP's proposal to let the project be handled by the next legislature as undermining sitting legislators and as a ploy to win the sympathies of anti-nuclear voters in the December elections.

On Tuesday, the opposition reiterated its demand that construction be immediately restarted -- though it used softer language -- and said doing so would "show respect for the constitutional system and peace among the branches of government."

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