China's response to calls for talks about cross-strait charter flights for the Lunar New Year could point toward a "mood shift," the nation's top cross-strait policymaking body said yesterday.
"If the Lunar New Year charter flights work out, they could pave the way for a conciliatory environment on other policies," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said.
Wu held a media conference yesterday to discuss the content of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) speech at a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday, in which Chen proposed using "Taiwan-Hong Kong commercial air route negotiations" as a model to "immediately start consultation."
China's Taiwan Affairs Office had expressed a willingness to adopt the model during a press briefing on Oct 27.
Wu cited three points that he said indicated a possible "mood shift" in China, presumably for the better: the repatriation of illegal immigrants, the extradition of fugitives and recent remarks welcoming Taiwanese businesspeople in China.
Beijing had previously given the cold shoulder to Taiwanese businesspeople who aligned themselves with the pan-green camp.
"The [Lunar] New Year charter flights are a good indication. It will allow us to see how they respond to this after [Chen's] National Day speech," Wu said.
He said the main components of the "Hong Kong model" demand that political differences and preconditions be set aside.
"The government has actual control of the negotiation, even though they can be flexible, and several organizations facilitate the negotiations," he said.
"Since the president already mentioned that we're going to use the `Hong Kong model' as the basis for the negotiation for the Lunar New Year charter flights and the cargo charter flights, then that's what we will try to pursue," Wu said.
When China's Taiwan Affairs Office first gave the green light to the Hong Kong model last month, the MAC responded by saying that it would not rule out any possibility, as long as the Beijing government authorized delegates to negotiate the matter.
Wu yesterday reiterated Chen's call for talks to be resumed within the next two years.
"What this means is that if we miss these two years, there will be the 17th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, our [next] presidential election, constitutional revision ? the situation will be unpredictable," he said, adding that the next two years would offer a stable period to "work something out."
Wu also identified several new elements introduced in Chen's address to the National Security Council.
In addition to the proposal of using the "Hong Kong model" and starting consultations immediately, Wu said that Chen had elaborated on the details of a code of conduct for cross-strait relations, as well as his intention to invite members of the pan-blue camp to participate in the establishment of a committee for cross-strait peace and development.
Chen had said on Wednesday that the code of conduct, which was first introduced in his National Day speech, should include the establishment of military buffer zones, areas military aircraft and ships can only enter with prior notification and as a matter of absolute necessity.
Chen also referred to the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreements between the US and the former USSR and the 1998 Military Maritime Consultative Agreement between the US and China as examples of mechanisms that could promote military security across the Taiwan Strait.