Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Torch talks focus on sovereignty

RELAY NEGOTIATIONS A report claimed the compromise consisted of Taiwan not demanding a route change, but asking China to see Taipei as part of the overseas leg

Agencies, TAIPEI

Negotiations concerning the route of the 2008 Olympic torch are not just a matter of "wording" as some media outlets have claimed, a Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)official said yesterday.

MAC spokesperson Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) said that a main element of the negotiations would be Taiwan's insistence that its sovereignty not be compromised by the arrangements.

Taiwan has four preconditions for accepting the torch -- that the relay must follow Olympic conventions, be approved by Taiwan's government, must not intentionally belittle Taiwan's status and must be positive for cross-strait relations.

Liu said that Taiwan's position on the matter remained unchanged, and it continues to hope that "Chinese Taipei" can participate in all Olympic activities. He said both sides were still discussing the matter and he could not comment on whether or not Taiwan had given up its demand that the torch pass through another country on its way from Taiwan to China.

The council's response came after a newspaper reported yesterday that Taiwan, under pressure from the International Olympic Committee, was ready to compromise on the Olympic torch relay route and drop its demand that the proposed route be changed.

The China Times quoted Tsai Chen-wei (蔡辰威), chairman of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, as saying that Taipei and Beijing will hold final talks at the end of this month.

China's route calls for the torch to come to Taipei from Vietnam's Ho Chi Min City and go from Taipei to Hong Kong and Macau.

The government rejected that arrangement saying it was aimed at belittling Taiwan's status by making it the first "domestic" leg on the relay.

The government demanded the torch go from Taipei to a third country, like South Korea or Japan, before entering China. Taipei's compromise offer is that it would no longer demand a change to the route but would ask China to see Taipei as part of the overseas leg of the torch relay, the report said. Beijing would not have to make a public declaration under the proposed compromise, instead any mention of the overseas leg of the torch relay must say "20 cities plus Hong Kong and Macau," the daily said.

That way, Taiwan could consider itself one of the 20 cities while Beijing would not have to openly call Taipei a foreign city.

"It is not difficult for the two sides to settle the dispute, because when it comes down to it, it is only a matter of words, a matter of how you say it," the China Times quoted Tsai as saying.

It is not clear if China would accept the demands.

The latest China-proposed compromise was on Aug. 6, when Jiang Xiaoyu (蔣效愚), executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad referred to the route as "the 19 [overseas] cities plus Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau."

This solution was rejected by the Taiwanese government, but it seems it may have changed its mind and is ready to compromise, provided that Beijing also compromises by not mentioning Taipei by name, the report said.

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