Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Lee relents on 8-inch wafer fabs

HIGH-TECH STAKES After being wooed by President Chen last week, ex-president Lee Teng-hui has agreed to soften his stance on allowing chipmakers into China

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) two "secret" visits to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in the hospital last week have apparently paid off.

After reassuring him that the government would not allow eight-inch wafer foundries to go to China before due planning and deliberation, President Chen yesterday said that he had successfully softened the former president's attitude on the issue.

Lee, however, didn't reverse his opposition to the plan, but said he was "willing to understand" the government's position, a source from the Presidential Office said yesterday.

The source said that Chen, during his visits, stressed that the Cabinet would uphold a concrete set of principles of "effective management."

No Bian-Lee split

As speculation mounts over whether the eight-inch wafer issue threatens to split the Bian-Lee alliance, a presidential aide stressed that communication between the two continues to be good and the disagreement was by no means "as irreconcilable as speculated."

"After the exchange of views, President Chen and former president Lee reached a consensus to a certain degree," the aide said.

The presidential aide confirmed yesterday that from Feb. 28, the president has met with Lee at least four times. The latest meetings took place last Tuesday and Saturday afternoon, after Lee fell ill and checked into a hospital last Monday. They talked on Saturday for over an hour and exchanged views on the issue of eight-inch wafer foundries.

"The president has spoken publicly that economic reforms should not shun opening and that the government would have well-articulated regulations regarding high-tech professionals, equipment and the return of capital and punishment for those who go to China before the ban is lifted. I believe the president was making the same point in his meetings with Mr. Lee," said a source from the Presidential Office.

With great concern, Lee is said to have told Chen that the eight-inch wafer issue is not just one of economics and trade, but also involves complicated international issues.

Lee wondered aloud what would happen if Taiwan transferred its high-tech industries to China. Lee asked Chen if the US and Japan, who first supplied foundry technology to Taiwan, would be able to trust Taiwan again if it gave away its high-tech capacity to Beijing.

Lee blames plan on pressure

Lee said in a TV interview last week, "If President Chen came to ask me, I would tell him about these questions. It was all because of the pressure from some scholars and businessmen who have invested in China that the president and government started to think about lifting the bans," said Lee in the interview.

The source said that President Chen promised to consider all opposing views and that he expected 12-inch wafer foundries to begin mass-production fairly soon.

Lee then expressed his "understanding" of the government's position and said he would tone down his opposition to the lifting of the ban. Lee also said that he hoped that the government would stand firm on these bottom-lines.

The aide also said that the Cabinet-designated task force's meeting tomorrow and the deadline of the end of March remained unchanged.

Chen met with Lee on Feb. 28, March 2, March 12 and March 16. According to a presidential aide, Premier Yu Shyi-kun will soon visit Lee and exchange views about arrangements related to "effective management."

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