Taiwanese officials responded with caution yesterday to a Chinese official’s announcement of a plan to build a rail link between Beijing and Taipei.
Responding to a Xinhua report yesterday in which Chinese Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun (劉志軍) was quoted as saying that Beijing was “actively planning” the rail link, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said China would have to take professional and political aspects into consideration.
Wang declined to comment further.
“The railway network is expected to lay a foundation of transport infrastructure for the cross-strait economic zone,” Xinhua quoted Liu as saying.
The rail line may stretch across the body of water between Xiamen, a city in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, and Taiwan, the news agency said. It did not specify how trains would cross the 180km Taiwan Strait.
At a separate setting yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) cast doubt on the need for a cross-strait railroad, saying that both sides of the Strait were making efforts to improve transportation links, including sea, air and postal links.
Regular flights will also be on the agenda at the third session of high-level cross-strait talks scheduled for sometime in the next few months, he said, adding that cross-strait transportation links already had a “solid foundation.”
As China has previously proposed building a freeway to Taiwan, Liu Te-shun said it was necessary for both sides to “shorten the psychological distance.”
He said it was also debatable whether there was any need for a “cross-strait economic zone.”
What mattered more was building a better investment environment and protecting the interests of Taiwanese businesses based in China, Liu Te-shun said.
When approached for comment, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said he opposed the cross-strait railway idea because it would put Taiwan in an unfavorable strategic position.
The railway plan was also illogical, as focusing on air links between Beijing and Taipei would be a better way of improving cross-strait trade ties, Huang said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said current transportation links between Taiwan and China and the regular cross-strait charter flights the two nations plan to discuss would be sufficient to satisfy the needs of both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Building a railway between Taipei and Beijing in a bid to boost cross-strait trade ties would be “uneconomic,” he said.
Regarding the Kinmen County Government’s plan to build a bridge from Kinmen to Xiamen, Liu Te-shun said his understanding was that the Council for Economic Planning and Development had decided “in principle not to build it.”
Wang said the Presidential Office respected the council’s decision.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told local residents during his inspection trip to Kinmen on Aug. 24 last year that, although there should not be any technical problem building the proposed Kindeng Bridge (金嶝大橋), he would like them to consider the political implications and effectiveness of building a bridge to China.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG
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