Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Envoy sees possibility for air links

DIRECT FLIGHTS The president's recent `10-point' directive has created an opportunity for the two sides to resume dialogue, the nation's US representative said

By Joy Su and Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH CNA

China may be ready to reopen talks with Taiwan on direct commercial air links that have been frozen since 1999, the Washington Times quoted David Lee (李大維), Taiwan's top representative to the US, as saying yesterday.

"Hopefully, next year we may see a real window of opportunity to reopen dialogue between the two sides," Lee told the newspaper's editors and reporters at a luncheon on Monday.

On Tuesday, the diplomat said in an interview with the Central News Agency that the "10-point" directive that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) gave during a recent national security meeting has reopened a "window of opportunity" for Taiwan and China to resume cross-strait air link talks.

In the "10-point" directive, Chen instructed relevant government agencies to step up preparations for the opening of direct trade, postal and transportation links with China on the basis of a meeting in Hong Kong in 1992, said Lee.

The US government has on numerous occasions suggested Beijing grab the opportunity to re-start the long-stalled cross-strait dialogue, Lee added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday Lee reiterated Chen's position on reopening cross-strait talks in his interviews with the media.

"The US' policies remain unchanged [in facilitating cross-strait talks]. It will serve as a facilitator rather than a mediator," ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

As the Lunar New Year draws near with no sign of any progress toward establishing cross-strait charter flights, Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) reiterated yesterday that the opportunity had not yet been lost.

"From the last three Taiwan Affairs Office press conferences, it is clear that they [China] have not come to a final decision on the matter," Wu said, pointing out that different stances had been conveyed in each of the press conferences.

He said that the Chinese authorities had alternated between stressing the political and economic aspects of the flights.

"This is no different from what we predicted from the start -- nothing will happen until after the [legislative] elections. Right now, they [China] are just trying to buy some time to make a decision on the matter," Wu said.

Wu did not fail to repeat the customary call for Chinese cooperation on the matter, stressing that the sound of one hand clapping was silence.

"We've taken 10 steps forward, albeit one step at a time. However, they haven't even taken the first step. If they don't do that, we can't take the next step," Wu said.

Meanwhile, the US government is looking for a suitable person to head the Washington-based American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Lee said. The post has been left vacant since former AIT Chairwoman Therese Shaheen resigned in April.

Lee told reporters at a routine news conference that a final decision is expected to be made after the next US secretary of state assumes office in January.

He said he is delighted at US President George W. Bush's decision to appoint Stephen Hadley, incumbent deputy national security advisor, as the new national security advisor.

Hadley has a deep understanding of the Taiwan Strait issue and Taiwan welcomes Hadley's appointment as the new White House national security advisor, Lee said.

The diplomat said the Bush administration's policies toward Taiwan and China are expected to remain unchanged after current National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice takes over from Colin Powell as secretary of state.

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