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It Is Too Early to Link Political Talks with Unification Talks

  • Date:1999-04-18

MAC Chairman Su Chi:

It Is Too Early to Link Political Talks with Unification Talks

Wang Min-yi & Ma Wei-min, China Times April 8, 1999 p.14

Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi stressed that it was too early to link political talks with unification talks at a time when the two sides of the Taiwan Straits lack mutual trust and consensus. The Republic of China (ROC) government does not evade political talks, nor is it afraid of talks on unification. However, if Beijing forces political talks between the two sides, the result would be to “underline differences and to ignore agreements” (qiu yi cun tong), and will intensify the confrontation between the two sides, instead of improving cross-strait relations.

The chairman emphasized that the top leader of Taiwan, whose mandate was given through a direct presidential election, would find it impossible to execute a mainland policy completely according to his own personal wishes. President Lee Teng-hui’s sustained high popularity is partly due to the support of his mainland policy by the majority of the people in Taiwan. Even Chen Shui-bian, former Mayor of Taipei of the Democratic Progressive Party, said he wished to continue “the President’s line of mainland policy”. This indicates that the unified front tactics employed by Mainland authorities to alienate the people in Taiwan from their leader has resulted from a misjudgment of reality.

The National Unification Council (NUC) of the Presidential Office will convene a plenary meeting on April 8, where President Lee will deliver an important speech. As a chief staff member to the NUC, Su gave an exclusive interview to the China Times on cross-strait relations, mainland policy, and the forthcoming Koo-Wang meeting in Taipei currently being planned. Dr. Su elaborated on the government’s position in the interview highlighted as follows:

Q. Lee Teng-hui’s “six-point proposal” and Jiang Zemin’s “eight-point proposal” overlap on the idea that the highest leaders across the Straits intend to end the hostility between the two sides. How will Taipei and Beijing carry out negotiations on this extremely difficult issue?

A. We are not going to negotiate with the Mainland on ceasing the status of hostility across the Taiwan Straits. We have already unilaterally ended the “General Mobilization Period for the Suppression of the Communist Rebellion”, which indicates that we have actively and unilaterally ended the cross-strait status of hostility. This is what we strive to achieve. We wish not to quarrel over how to name the issue. What we want to negotiate is a “peace treaty”. However, before moving onto such negotiations, the two sides must build up mutual confidence and accumulate consensus. Talks on issues involving the rights and the interests of the peoples across the Straits in order to reach agreements will be the best approach to build up consensus. The two sides should not aim too high. It would be most pragmatic to advance step by step.

Q. “One jurisdictively divided China” is how the government describes the present cross-strait situation. Mainland China has recently suggested “one China jurisdictively divided”. Does it suggest changes in the position that the two sides are taking?

A. The Republic of China defines the present cross-strait relations as “one country with two equal political entities”, which, in laymen’s term, is like “two rooms under one roof”. This is the most accurate description of cross-strait reality. Since we treat the other side as an equal political entity, not an insurgent group, the two sides could engage in trade, investment and matrimonial relations. Also, under the concept of “division by separate jurisdictions”, our government was able to formulate legal framework and policies on cross-strait exchanges and negotiations.

The concept of “division by separate jurisdictions” that Mr. Wang Daohan brought up in his remarks shows a step toward the right direction. However, he failed to provide more details. We do not know if Mr. Wang’s statement represents Beijing’s official stance, or reflects Beijing’s two-handed strategy of “differentiating between the external and internal approaches”. Therefore, Mr. Wang’s concept of “division by separate jurisdictions” still needs further observation. Moreover, we should refrain from exaggerating its political implications.

Q. Mr. Wang said plainly that the Mainland considers political talks across the Straits as unification talks. As the competent authority on mainland affairs, what is MAC’s position on this.

A. How can political talks be unification talks? It is too early to link political talks with unification talks. While there is no mutual confidence between Taipei and Beijing, it is imperative for the two sides to establish mutual confidence at the current stage. “Haste makes waste”. We are not afraid of political talks or talks over issues of democracy with Beijing. It is the Mainland that might refuse any talks on issues of democracy. If we plunge into political talks, there will be no concrete results except that the two sides make their own respective statements, which might intensify the cross-strait confrontation. This is to “underline differences and ignore agreements” (qiu yi cun tong), and does not help the cross-strait relations.

Q. “Democratic unification” was the theme set for the Koo-Wang meeting in Shanghai last year. Will this still be the government’s appeal in the Koo-Wang meeting this year?

A. Democracy being the premise for unification is the government’s unchanged position. Democratic unification is what we accept. In the process of cross-strait negotiations, we highlight democratic unification based upon the following concerns. First, only a democratic Mainland China can assure that agreements signed between the two sides will be faithfully implemented. Secondly, only a democratic Mainland China can relieve the security concerns of the Asian Pacific countries. Thirdly, only when the Mainland becomes democratic can the people in Taiwan support political talks between the two sides.

Q. News from the mainland indicates that if a provision for referendum is included in the (ROC) constitutional amendment, or if Taiwan takes part in the Theater Missile Defense project (of the United States), the mainland will postpone Mr. Wang’s trip to Taiwan. What are your comments?

A. It is very impractical to link all these controversies to Mr. Wang’s visit to Taiwan. If Mr. Wang is sincere in taking this trip, these issues will become non-issues. If he does not want to do so, any excuse can be used to abrogate the commitment for a dialogue among high-ranking representatives of the two sides. Just as the two sides are opening up constructive talks, the less unnecessary noise, the better.

A visit by Mr. Wang to Taiwan will contribute to the improvement of the cross-strait relations, a resumption of institutionalized talks, and more regular exchanges. Now the two sides have agreed that the trip will be in the autumn, it will be significant for Dr. Koo Chen-fu and Mr. Wang Daohan to have their annual dialogue. If this chance is lost, it will be difficult to make rearrangements all over again by the two sides. In his “eight-point proposal”, Jiang Zemin also mentioned that it would be helpful for the two sides to exchange visits. If the other side establishes unnecessary prerequisites, or brings up preconditions (on Wang’s Taiwan visit), this will not be in line with the principle of Jiang’s “eight-point proposal”, nor will it be an act of good faith.