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2004-06-03 18:41:01

    Taipei, June 3 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) welcomes any recommendation that can boost reconciliation or rapprochement across the Taiwan Strait, a senior official said Thursday.

    MAC Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san made the remarks after James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House Committee on International Relations a day earlier that the United States strongly supports "track two" unofficial or quasi-official talks among Taiwan, mainland Chinese and American representatives.

    Kelly said unofficial or quasi-official contacts are a good way for testing various initiatives to break the current cross-strait impasse. "We share Kelly's view, " Chiu said, adding that the MAC always welcomes any proposal that can contribute to positive developments in cross-strait relations.

    As a matter of fact, Chiu said, President Chen Shui-bian has on many occasions suggested that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait exchange representative offices to facilitate direct dialogue and avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments.

    Chiu said the biggest difficulty for the moment lies in Beijing's reluctance to resume cross-strait dialogue. Beijing unilaterally shut the dialogue channel between the two quasi-official intermediary bodies -- Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) -- in July 1999 over then-ROC President Lee Teng-hui's describing cross-strait ties as a special "state-to-state" relationship.

    Just last week, Chiu said, MAC Chairman Joseph Wu invited ARATS President Wang Daohan, the top mainland Chinese negotiator with Taiwan, to visit Taipei. "We hope Beijing can make a goodwill response to our invitation and resume the long-stalled SEF-ARATS dialogue, " Chiu said, adding that so long as the two sides can sit down to talk, any dispute or topic can be discussed.

    In the past two days, two major foreign trade associations -- the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei and the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT) -- issued recommendations that Taiwan take immediate steps to open direct cross-strait transportation links. The two trade groups warned that Taiwan might risk becoming irrelevant if it drags its feet on opening direct shipping and air links with the mainland. "We appreciate their recommendations. But direct cross-strait transportation links involve many complicated issues that must be addressed through bilateral consultations. We have drawn up many complementary measures. Mainland China should also do its part in preparations. We hope AmCham and the ECCT can help persuade Beijing not to impose too many prerequisites or political barriers and to resume dialogue with Taiwan as soon as possible," Chiu said, adding that the two sides should resume contacts and increase engagements steadily to forge a consensus to resolve sensitive disputes in the future.

(By Sofia Wu)


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