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PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CROSS-STRAIT CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MECHANISM

2004-01-12 20:40:34

    Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) According to President Chen Shui-bian, it is necessary for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to communicate with each other and establish a confidence-building mechanism.

    Chen makes the remark in a chapter on cross-strait peace in his new book "Believe in Taiwan, " which is scheduled to be published Thursday. He also says that "we would like to sit down to talk with China's representatives."

    To break the cross-strait stalemate, both sides could start by exchanging representatives, Chen says.

    If both sides are unwilling to have permanent representatives stationed on each side of the strait, the representatives could shuttle back and forth, although Chen said Beijing would have misgivings about this, claiming that they are more used to "under the table" operations.

    The president points out that no wars have erupted between the two sides for the past four decades and claims there is "no hatred" between the people on either side. Instead, he goes on, cross-strait exchanges are close and cross-strait relations are no different from those between allies and neighbors. Thus, it is "absurd" and "dangerous" to have no communication channel between the two governments, he says.

    Chen questions why both sides cannot negotiate, saying that former East Germany and West Germany set up representative offices between them before unification, while South and North Korea have special agencies in charge of negotiation, India and Pakistan have negotiators in charge of Kashmir and Britain and the Irish Republican Army have secret communication channels.

    According to Chen, if both sides could send representatives and set up a communication mechanism, it would be a major beginning of cross-strait peace. "If Chinese leaders are sincere in the pursuit of cross-strait peace, then this is the most substantive move," Chen says.

    He also writes that he has repeatedly said that if he wins his re-election bid March 20, he will end the chaotic political, legislative and constitutional scene once and for all, and exchanges between the ruling and opposition parties and cross-strait relations will both return to the normal track.

    Mainland China has spared no efforts in pressuring Taiwan and the United States, but if the Taiwan people choose him again, then Beijing will give up completely, for it has waited in vain for four years, cannot afford to wait another four years and will realize "it is better to sit down to talk," Chen claims.

    Chen says he is willing to talk with the other side, citing his 2000 inaugural speech in which he said that leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, while upholding the principles of democracy and parity, building upon the existing foundations, and constructing conditions for cooperating through goodwill, "possess enough wisdom and creativity to jointly deal with the question of a future one China."

    He says that after the election, Beijing will have to face a new Taiwan. "We can understand the reasoning of China, which believes that their every concession will be a boost to me, " the president says, but after March 20, Beijing will have to face a Taiwan that has a new mandate from its people. It will no longer be able to say that Chen only represents 39 percent of the Taiwan people but will face a president who has over half of the votes, he predicts.

    Chen's rivals in the previous presidential election, James Soong and opposition Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan, have joined hands to form a single ticket this year.

    The president says he told the New York Times in an interview that when the Taiwan people elect him in March, Chinese President Hu Jintao will have to respect the choice of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

    He claims that it will be difficult for Beijing to change its mindset toward Taiwan, no matter who is the leader on the mainland, and adds that it would be impossible for the mainland to give up its "one China" principle or its "one country, two systems" rhetoric.

    But if both sides could back down, putting aside major differences, there could still be some agreements outside the "one China" principle and "one country, two systems" advocacy, according to Chen.

    He says that if Beijing still insists on "one China" and "one country, two systems, " then no matter who is leading Taiwan, there will be no major cross-strait changes or breakthroughs and Hu will be no different from his predecessor Jiang Zemin in dealing with cross-strait relations.

(By Lilian Wu)

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