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AIDE DENIES SECRET CONTACTS BETWEEN PRESIDENT, BEIJING LEADERS

2004-01-19 22:14:19

    Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) Although an unspecified Beijing leader relayed a message to President Chen Shui-bian prior to his swearing-in after the 2000 election, there was no secret contact between the president and the Beijing leader, an aide to the president said Monday.

    Huang Chih-fang, director for public affairs at the Presidential Office, said the handwritten note produced by the president during a television interview the previous day was conveyed to him from a Beijing leader who urged Chen to reach out to Beijing in his inaugural speech. The Beijing official was not identified.

    Huang said the message has been verified as originating from a specific Beijing leader. Instead of incorporating the message in his inaugural speech, however, Chen changed his speech a little bit to offer an olive branch to Beijing. Unfortunately, the president's hospitality was not reciprocated, Huang said.

    Instead, he went on, what the president got from Beijing in return has been an ever-intensifying struggle against his administration and himself.

    The president has woken up to the fact that whatever goodwill he extends to Beijing will not change Beijing's hostility toward Taiwan, said Huang.

    The president showed the note in the interview to stress the fact that he has bent over backward to maintain friendly ties with mainland China, only to be snubbed by Beijing.

    Huang refused to reveal the name of the Beijing leader, saying that the issue is a thing of the past and that disclosing the name would not do any good.

    He would not confirm Monday's reports that the message was relayed to Chen through Ko Cheng-en, deputy secretary-general of National Security Council, saying only it was relayed to Chen through a reliable channel.

    However, he dismissed as "absurd" claims by critics earlier in the day that the message could not be true, saying: "These political brokers who make their livings by acting as Beijing's message boys are in no position to comment on this issue."

    Huang said it is common for messages to be sent across the Taiwan Strait, but the president has never sent any emissary to Beijing to negotiate.

(By Maubo Chang)

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