Wed, May 17, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Links serve nation's interests, Ma says

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Confronted by pro-independence groups on the question of direct transportation links with China, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the links served Taiwan's best interests, rather than Beijing's.

The chairman also dismissed the notion that opening up direct transportation links would endanger the nation's sovereignty, saying the issue was not that clear-cut.

"[The links] could be both domestic and international. They could also be neither domestic nor international. The best term for them is a `cross-strait line,'" Ma said.

A direct flight from Taipei to Shanghai, Ma said, would require approval from each zone it passed through under the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and would therefore be an international flight. Under Cabotage rights, however, neither Taiwanese nor Chinese authorities would allow foreign companies to operate or manage the links, and so direct flights were also a domestic issue, Ma said.

In aviation terms, cabotage refers to the right to operate within the domestic borders of another country.

Pro-Taiwanese independence groups, including the northern, central, southern and eastern Taiwan societies, the Taiwan Association of University Professors and Taiwan Advocates placed an advertisement in yesterday's edition of the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) questioning Ma's stance on direct links. In the ad, the groups claimed that allowing direct links was to accept the "one country, two systems" model (一國兩制).

"Ma Ying-jeou said that as long as China refused to accept the existence of Taiwan as a political entity, it was impossible to [open up direct links] unless Taiwan acknowledged China as the central government and Taiwan as a local government under the `one country, two systems' model," the ad said, quoting Ma's article titled "Problems and Prospects of Direct Transportation Links," written in 1992 when he served as the vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council.

"Has the barrier by which China denies that Taiwan is a political entity disappeared? Or have you acknowledged China as the central government and Taiwan as a local government?" the ad asked.

Ma said the concerns he raised in 1992 had been allayed by a change in China's attitude.

The 28th clause of the Statute Governing the Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) had also changed the current cross-strait reality to one of "theoretical opening, but exceptional prohibition," he said.

"Ruling and opposition parties have reached consensus on the issue. These pro-independence groups have failed to keep up with the times ... Both the government and industries agree that direct links are necessary," Ma added.

Opening up direct links would benefit Taiwan more than China due to the influx of talent and goods that would result, he said. Ma added that the four-month inter-party negotiation period had now expired, and said it was time to make a final decision on amending the statute.

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