Tue, Feb 01, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chinese officials to arrive today

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The highest-ranked Chinese official to visit Taiwan in a decade is slated to arrive today to attend the funeral of Taiwan's top cross-strait negotiator, but the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday cautioned against reading too much political significance into the event.

"We will respect their wishes regarding how to handle this visit," Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) reiterated several times yesterday, saying he knew nothing about the details of the trip.

Beijing announced on Sunday that three Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) officials would represent ARATS Chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) at the memorial service of his late counterpart, former Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫). As the heads of the two semi-official organizations that oversee cross-strait interaction in the absence of formal ties, the two conducted landmark negotiations in Singapore in 1993 and later in 1998 in Beijing. Koo died in January of kidney failure.

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Deputy director and ARATS vice chairman Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), ARATS Secretary-General Li Yafei (李亞飛) and ARATS research department director Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) are slated to arrive on China Airlines Flight 606 at 2:30pm, according to the SEF.

Sun will be the highest-ranked TAO official to visit Taiwan since 1995, when then ARATS vice chairman and TAO deputy director Tang Shubei (唐樹備) met with Chiao Jen-ho (焦仁和), former SEF secretary-general. In addition, he is the highest ranked ARATS official to visit in six years.

According to Chiu, the Chinese officials' stay in Taiwan could be as short as just 30 hours. They are slated to depart immediately after Koo's memorial service tomorrow. While there has been speculation that the three might not show up at the service because President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is slated to speak, Chiu said that as far as he knew, the three planned to attend.

Asked whether there would be any official contact made during the delegation's visit, Chiu said only that it depended on the ARATS officials.

However, according to a report in the United Daily News Sun told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Ho Chih-hui (何智輝) that the trip would be conducted along three principles: that the trip did not represent a resumption of negotiations, that there would be no media interviews and that no official visits would be paid.

Chiu expressed regret that Wang, 90, was unable to attend Koo's service in person. He said that if Wang had expressed a willingness to visit, the Council could have arranged a private plane for him.

"It would have been no problem," Chiu said, explaining that after all, Koo and Wang had been good friends and made history together.

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