Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Straits Exchange Foundation presses on with work despite China's anger

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) said the passage of a referendum law that angers China shouldn't get in the way of talks on cross-strait flights, adding that any improvement in relations requires efforts by both sides.

Koo urged his Chinese counterpart to visit Taipei for talks on a charter-flight plan.

Koo, who held historic talks with Wang Daohan (汪道涵), head of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), in 1993, stressed the urgency for both sides to start negotiations on the plan for cross-strait flights.

The charter-flight project is designed to help bring China-based Taiwanese businesspeople and their families, estimated to include over 1 million people, back to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The SEF faxed a letter to ARATS yesterday morning inviting it for talks on charter flights.

With the three-week charter-flight plan due to begin on Jan. 9, Koo was concerned that ARATS' postponement in replying to the letter would leave insufficient time for airlines and government agencies to prepare for the flights.

"For the huge number of China-based Taiwanese businessmen and their families in Taiwan, the Lunar New Year holidays are an important occasion for family reunions," Koo said.

As for Wang's recent criticism of Taiwan's push for a new constitution and referendums, Koo said he understood Wang's concerns.

Asked whether it is still possible for both sides to reopen talks while China condemns the referendum law as an effort by Taiwanese authorities toward independence, Koo said the improvement of cross-strait relations "depends on both sides' efforts."

Talks are more urgently needed when Taiwan and China hold different opinions, Koo said.

"The holding of referendums is the people's basic right. People discuss the issue seriously. It is a good situation," Koo said.

On Wednesday, Zhang Mingqing (張銘清), spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, said Taiwan should expect a "strong response" from China in a few days if it passes a referendum law that would pave the way for independence.

Koo declined to speculate whether the "strong response" might include military force.

"Zhang said we might know what the response is in a few days. We shall wait for a few days to see what he means," he said.

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