President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday expressed high hopes for the negotiating team heading to Beijing tomorrow, saying that he hoped the historic journey would lay the foundations for mutual trust and better long-term relations.
The team, led by Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), is set to negotiate direct cross-strait flights and an increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.
Ma, who received Chiang and 15 members of the 19-member team at the Presidential Office yesterday morning, said that the negotiations between the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), are not only about weekend charter flights and more Chinese tourists, but also about better long-term cross-strait relations.
“I hope it will pave the way for regular meetings between the two agencies and lay the groundwork for solid ties between the two sides. It is a pity interaction between the two agencies has been dormant for the past decade,” he said.
It is the first meeting between the two agencies since the late SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) met his ARATS counterpart, Wang Daohan (汪道涵), more than 10 years ago.
Ma, who once served as vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), lamented the time lost since he and SEF secretary-general Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) mapped out cross-strait policy and a negotiating strategy 21 years ago.
Ma showed reporters a copy of a proposal he penned 16 years ago on the problems with and the prospects for direct transportation links, saying that he did not have the opportunity to put it into practice.
“Under an atmosphere of detente, we hope to find a way of tackling the various issues,” he said. “It may take some time to resolve them, but we don’t want to see them become a hindrance to more urgent matters.”
As long as both sides could shelve differences and seek common ground, Ma said, mutual trust would follow. He said he realized negotiations on direct transportation would take time, but both sides have agreed to negotiate on the basis of the so-called “1992 consensus.” No matter who is in power, both sides will only benefit if they work on the issues that they agree on, he said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) urged the negotiating team to safeguard Taiwan’s dignity and emphasize a Taiwan-centered consciousness at the negotiating table.
While he supported the resumption of talks, Huang said he hoped that future negotiations would be conducted through a single channel and said that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should leave the matter to the SEF and the MAC.
Huang also expressed concern over the hasty resumption of talks and the timetables for weekend charter flights and Chinese tourism, saying they was unwise.
He made the remarks after visiting MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) yesterday morning.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also issued a statement opposing the SEF and ARATS signing a joint communiques, saying that such a statement would be official endorsement of the “one China” principle under the so-called “1992 consensus” and the five-point consensus reached by former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
Beijing would use the joint statement to force the Ma administration to accept the negotiation framework set up by the KMT and Chinese Communist Party, the DPP said.
The DPP said it firmly opposed any consensus that did not go through the debate process in Taiwan, regardless of whether it was in the form of an agreement, meeting minutes or a press release.
The DPP said that Beijing tried to use its “Anti-Secession” Law, the communiques signed by Lien and Hu and between Hu and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to set the course for cross-strait negotiations.
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