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Sat, Jul 28, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Confusion surrounds S Korean visit

IMPROVING TIES Despite some misunderstanding between the South Korean delegation visiting Taipei and its hosts, the former still pressed for direct air links


The five-day visit of former South Korean president Kim Young-sam to Taipei was clouded with confusion and misunderstanding yesterday. Nevertheless, the improvement of bilateral ties was still the focus of Kim's meeting with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Kim cancelled his press conference scheduled for 3:30pm at the Grand Hotel yesterday after his delegation and the Presidential Office failed to map out the final wording of a written statement.

"The Presidential Office intended to insert a few words into our drafted press release while we wanted to keep it as simple as possible," said Kang Myeong-sang, director of the Institute of China Relations at Korea's Kyungnam University and a member of the 17-strong delegation.

"That [referring to the press conference] was only what we had hoped for. Whatever we do must be agreed by your Presidential Office," said Chung Jey-moon, a member of Korea's National Assembly from the Grand Nation Party, another member of the delegation.

The drafted statement urged the resumption of direct air links to take place as soon as possible "in order to enhance substantive ties between the two sides."

In the statement, both sides agreed that working-level negotiations between the two governments should commence in the near future.

Such negotiations would discuss substantive as well as technical matters related to the resumption of direct air links.

Kang and Chung denied a report in yesterday's Liberty Times that claimed that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) rejected Kim's proposal for a meeting during the latter's visit to Taiwan.

"We haven't contacted him and he hasn't contacted us," said Chung. "We'd like to pay a visit but there is no arrangement."

Seoul severed ties with Taipei in August 1992 under then-president Roh Tae-woo as part of its policy to move closer to Beijing and Moscow so as to gain an upper hand in its relations with Pyongyang.

Eugune Chien (簡又新), deputy secretary-general to the president, also denied a Liberty Times report which alleged that Kim "apologized" to Chen for what he saw as the improper process leading up the severance of ties between the two countries.

Kim met Chen for a second round of bilateral talks yesterday morning, which was followed by a lunch banquet hosted by Chen at the Taipei Guest House. Kim met Chen four times during the past two days.

During the meeting yesterday morning, Chen reportedly said it was "brave" of Kim to visit Taiwan because of pressure from China.

Chung confirmed that Kim had sent prior notice to China's embassy in Seoul about his planned visit to Taipei.

The enhancement of bilateral ties included the restoration of annual meetings between economics ministers from the two sides, to "fight against pressure from China to some extent," as well as the improvement of economic ties, Chen said.

Chen also reiterated that three conditions must be met before direct air links can be resumed, sources said.

Taipei would accept the restoration of air links if Taiwan's "national dignity" is respected, and if "substantial benefits" and "parity" are guaranteed to both sides, Chen said.

Chen made clear the three conditions for the first time during his initial meeting with Kim on Thursday.

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