Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Lien pledges to demilitarize Kinmen if he is elected

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday pledged to demilitarize Taiwan's outlying islands of the Kinmen group if he wins the upcoming presidential election.

In a speech delivered at the opening of the KMT-People First Party (PFP) alliance's campaign office in Kinmen, Lien, the alliance's presidential candidate, said he wished to turn Kinmen into a model for cross-strait peace.

"Once I am elected president, I will make pushing for the demilitarization of the Kinmen region and [China's coastal city of] Xiamen a priority, so that they can become a trial area for cross-strait peace (兩岸和平實驗區)," said Lien.

The Kinmen group is at its nearest only 1.5km from Xiamen.

Lien's proposal was similar to plans already drawn up by the Ministry of National Defense, which announced last October plans to demilitarize six islands in the Kinmen group and open them for tourism, after placing them under the administration of the coast guard and the Kinmen police.

The ministry, however, did not make public the timetable for demilitarization of the six islands. It also stressed that it would not withdraw all of the troops from the region until China retracts its threat to use force against Taiwan.

"In order to promote cross-strait peace, leaders of both sides of the Strait should use sincerity and wisdom, stop engaging in guessing-games and take substantial action to work together and resolve both sides' differences," Lien said.

At the launch of the Kinmen campaign office, which he presided over with his running mate, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), Lien vowed to expand the "small three links" and relax regulations governing the links if he wins the presidency.

With that said, Lien criticized President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as a "copycat."

"Proposals spoken by Chen are issues that I've already been promoting," said Lien. "In the past four years, Chen has not done much, and is now doing all the talking because election day is approaching."

Lien was referring to Chen's announcement regarding China-based Taiwanese businesspeople Friday night.

Chen, in a speech given Friday at an annual Lunar New Year gathering with approximately 130 officials from China-based Taiwanese business associations, spelled out four expanded benefits, which included the opening of "small three links" services to the families of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, expanding the coverage of the national health insurance program to China-based Taiwanese and education subsidies for the children of Taiwanese businesspeople in China.

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