Fri, Mar 27, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan urges Seoul, Pyongyang to follow its lead

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan yesterday urged Seoul and Pyongyang to settle their differences through the use of peaceful means rather than confrontation, calling on the two to consider patterning their interactions after the recent thaw in cross-strait ties.

Tension on the peninsula has escalated in the last few weeks as North Korea plans to go ahead with a rocket launch next month disregarding appeals from the UN, the US, and neighboring countries not to do so. While Pyongyang claims it is launching a communication satellite, Seoul, Washington and Tokyo see it as a disguised long-range missile test.

“Although Taiwan is not a member of the six-party talks, we want to take the opportunity to urge both sides to [settle the dispute] with dialogue in lieu of confrontation,” said Victor Yu (于德勝), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s (MOFA) Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, adding that the situation in the Korean Peninsula greatly affects Taiwan’s security and economic development.

Despite an absence of a diplomatic ties since 1992, Taiwan and South Korea enjoy close commercial and cultural relations, said Yu, citing an annual bilateral trade volume of US$26 billion.

Yu said Taiwan is looking to launch a working holiday program for young adults with South Korea. The topic will be among the discussion items in trade talks to be held in South Korea later this year, he said.

The ministry yesterday also called on China to stop interfering in Taiwan’s efforts to expand trade relations with other countries, such as ASEAN members, saying Beijing remains the biggest obstacle to Taiwan forging closer economic ties with other nations.

Saying that Taiwan hopes to have more direct access to ASEAN, so far Taiwan has had to resort to a gradual “block building” method to negotiate with individual ASEAN members separately on a possible free trade agreement (FTA), Yu said.

He said that Taiwan is not waiting for approval from Beijing before launching FTA negotiations with other countries as such talks have been ongoing.

The ideal situation would be for Taiwan to become an ASEAN dialogue partner, he said, acknowledging that in the short term, the chances of Taiwan joining ASEAN plus three were extremely slim because of the organization’s refusal to accept any more dialogue partners and the current cross-strait rapprochement.

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