Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh open to talks with Lien over new vice premier

JOB OFFER It all depends on KMT Chairman Lien Chan whether the party's vice chairman Chiang Pin-kung will become the vice premier, Premier Frank Hsieh said

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday that he is willing to visit Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to ask for his permission for KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) to fill the position of vice premier.

"When he [Lien] visited me in Kaohsiung in August 2000, I promised to return his visit. I hope I'll be able to do that in the near future," Hsieh said. "We can discuss many things, including the vice premiership."

If the KMT insists on inter-party negotiation, Hsieh said, he will let Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) take care of the matter after Su officially takes the helm of the DPP on Feb. 15.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to finalize the appointment before the eve of the Lunar New Year or before the new legislature convenes in the middle of this month," he said. "Now the ball is in their court and it all depends on Lien's will."

If the KMT refuses the offer, Hsieh said that he does not rule out the possibility of recruiting someone from the People First Party (PFP) or someone without any political affiliation.

"We do have other choices because we cannot wait forever. I hope he joins our team because he would make a better contribution to the country in the capacity of vice premier than as a legislator-at-large," he said.

Hsieh made the remarks yesterday morning during a radio interview.

Hsieh said that he had not directly contacted Chiang about the position and that Chiang is not the only pan-blue member he has consulted thus far.

"Their answers are consistent: either they respect the decision of their party or they don't rule out the possibility if their party allows it," he said.

When asked whether it was his idea or that of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to offer the job to Chiang, Hsieh replied that it was his idea and that the president gave his full endorsement.

Praising Chiang's economic expertise, Hsieh said that the choice was made to supplement a lack of economic professionals in the Cabinet. Chiang served as the minister of economic affairs between 1993 and 1996 and as chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development from 1996 to 2000.

Although Chiang has been promoting the idea of using China as an "economic hinterland," Hsieh said that he thought Chiang's economic concept echoed the DPP-led government's economic strategy of "mapping the global market" rather than contradicting it.

Hsieh also defended his recent remarks about "one China" and halting the campaign to change names of government agencies, which has led die-hard pro-independence supporters to think that he is attempting to woo pan-blue supporters.

"It's very important that the public reaches a consensus on such controversial issues," he said. "It's bound to create many problems if the government forcefully pushes them before a public consensus has been reached."

Commenting on Tuesday's elections of legislative heads, Hsieh said that although the DPP lost the battle, he saw the beginnings of goodwill gestures being extended by political parties.

"The arrival of swallows may not signal the coming of spring, but they at least bring the message of spring," he said.

Hsieh said that it is important to promote talks and negotiations with opposition parties, especially about controversial bills. He also pledged to prioritize bills in order to improve the odds of passing them in the legislature and to personally visit opposition lawmakers or leaders, if necessary, to win their support for government bills.

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