KMT delegation travels to China for historic visit

GOING BACK: For the first time since 1949, KMT officials head to China today to pay their respects to Sun Yat-sen and to meet with their counterparts across the Strait

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 2

Speaking on the eve of the party's first official delegation to visit China since 1949, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) said yesterday that the mission of the KMT is provide the people with alternatives in the face of worsening cross-strait tensions.

"As the nation's largest opposition party, it is the duty of the KMT to create alternate choices and visions for the people," Lien said. "We cannot stay silent and inactive when we see that a situation where a helpless administration sends us on a collision course [with China]."

"The KMT does not support Taiwanese independence, but we do not believe that China should react with military action ... both sides of the strait should increase their efforts to open dialogue and seek mutual benefits," Lien added.

Lien made the remarks yesterday morning to the 35-member delegation at the KMT headquarters.

The delegation is set to leave for China today.

The group, which is headed by KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤), will spend five days in China. It will first go to the Mausoleum of the 72 Martyrs in Guangzhou on March 28 and then fly to Nanjing on March 29 to pay the party's respects to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing. The last two days of the trip will be spent in Beijing visiting the Sun Yat-sen monument in Xiangshan.

The trip, which was first made public by Lien Feb. 28, is being planned ostensibly to allow the KMT to commemorate the memory of its founder, Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) -- also founding father of the Republic of China -- on the 80th anniversary of Sun's death.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Chiang said that the delegation would be meeting with the Taiwanese businesspeople living in China, and, if given the chance, Chinese government officials.

However, he refused to discuss which government officials the delegation would be meeting.

Chiang also said that besides helping his party pay its respects to its founder, the trip also has economic goals.

While in China, said Chiang, he hopes to talk with Chinese officials about establishing three direct transportation links across the Taiwan Strait and about direct cargo charter flights.

Besides Chiang, the members of the delegation include office director Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), KMT spokesman Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), KMT Secretary-General Huang Fu-tien (黃福田), party policy executive director Cheng Feng-shih (鄭逢時), culture and communications head Lai Su-chu (賴素如), and legislators Wu Sung-pi (吳松柏), Chao Erh-chung (曹爾忠), Yang Chung-ying (楊瓊櫻) and Chu Feng-chih (朱鳳芝).

Given that Chang, the KMT's former mainland affairs division head and current spokesman Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), are also part of the delegation, local Chinese-language media speculated yesterday that the trip will pave the way for a trip by Lien to China in June.

When asked about the prospect, party officials, however, refused to comment.