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The Opportunity for Cross-Strait Chartered Flights Talks: Reflections and Prospects on the Sixth Anniversary of the Koo-Wang Talks

  • Date:2004-10-14

Jaushieh Joseph Wu
Chairperson, Mainland Affairs Council

On the occasion of this important anniversary, I would like to discuss our cross-Strait policy, in order that China can better understand our government's position with a rational perspective, so that we can work towards the goal of a mutually beneficial future for both sides.

President Chen, in his inaugural address on May 20 of this year, has already set the basic tone for cross-Strait policy during his administration. He reaffirmed our policy in his National Day address on October 10, and on this basis once again extended goodwill to the other side. Both of these speeches were considered important and positive by observers both at home and abroad.

I. The Main Content of the National Day Address

A. Olive Branches

In this year's National Day address, the President not only once again extended olive branches, but expressed our goodwill to China with a confident, responsible, forthright, creative, and forward-looking attitude. The new thinking and vision of President Chen represents a new opportunity for the two sides to work together to begin peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.

B. Upholding Promises

In both his first and second inaugural addresses in 2000 and 2004, President Chen made specific pledges to the international community. In this year's National Day address, he reaffirmed that these pledges would be upheld as long as he is in office. In other words, during his term, the process of constitutional reform will not unilaterally change the status quo; moreover, as long as our 23 million people agree, we will not exclude the development of any possible type of cross-Strait relations.

C. Reducing the Possibility of Conflict

The President made further concrete proposals in the address, hoping that from a long-term perspective, the two sides may jointly study arms control, end the state of hostilities (note: our government unilaterally declared an end to hostilities in 1991), establish military confidence-building measures, reassess arms procurement policies, and consider a "Code of Conduct across the Taiwan Strait." All of these measures can help to make cross-Strait relations more predictable and manageable, laying a foundation for lasting peace in the Strait.

D. Preparing for the "Three-Links"

Following conclusions reached at the 2001 Economic Development Advisory Conference, our government has actively and pragmatically prepared for the opening of the "Three-Links" across the Strait. In his National Day address, President Chen pointed out that related government agencies are currently drafting a proposal to facilitate cross-Strait chartered flights for both passengers and cargo. We are willing to adopt the utmost flexibility to realize this proposal, in order to prepare the way for the "Three-Links."

E. Domestic Consensus

The key to all our government's policymaking is the will of the Taiwanese people. To strengthen public consensus, the President announced that after the legislative elections in December, he will invite the leaders of all political parties to form a joint "Committee for Cross-Strait Peace and Development." We hope this Committee's formation and operation will serve to effectively consolidate multi-partisan consensus and reduce conflict, so that cross-Strait exchanges and dialogue can be pursued more positively.

F. The Existing Foundation

In 1992, the two sides held a round of talks in Hong Kong under an attitude of setting aside disputes to pragmatically work on solving practical problems. These talks enabled the 1993 Koo-Wang talks in Singapore to take place. In his 2004 National Day address, the President particularly proposed that both sides use the 1992 meeting in Hong Kong as the basis for preparation of pragmatic negotiations on a range of substantive issues of concern to both sides at an early date. We hope to create a space for "win-win" solutions, and we hope that China adopt a similar posture in setting its cross-Strait policy, so that both sides can enter into active and positive talks.

II. Another Round of Koo-Wang Talks

Although the 1992 Hong Kong talks did not result in a concrete agreement, they did lead the two sides to agree to continue dialogue, and the result was the historic meeting between Mr. Koo Chen-fu, Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and Mr. Wang Daohan, Chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) in Singapore in 1993. At this meeting, four agreements were reached, the "Agreement on the Use and Verification of Certificates of Authentication Across the Taiwan Strait," the "Agreement on Matters Concerning Inquiry and Compensation for [Lost] Registered Mail Across the Taiwan Strait," the "Agreement on the System for Contacts and Meetings between SEF and ARATS," and the "Joint Agreement of the Koo-Wang Talks."

The 1993 meeting was in turn the basis for the October 1998 Koo-Wang meeting in Shanghai. In the 1998 meeting consensuses were reached: "Enhancing the dialogue to resume systematic discussions," "Promoting exchanges of visits between SEF-ARATS staff at various levels," "Actively providing mutual assistance on cases arising from exchanges," and "Arranging a Taiwan visit for Mr. Wang at an appropriate time."

These two meetings were the high points of cross-Strait relations ever since 1949, and the agreements and consensus reached then are the best cornerstone for positive interaction between the two sides. Looking back, we can say that, if not for the 1992 Hong Kong meeting, there would have been no 1993 Koo-Wang talks, let alone the 1998 meeting.

History marches on, and of course 1998 will not be the end of cross-Strait negotiations. We are confident that the people on both sides of the Strait hope that Chairman Koo and Chairman Wang can meet once again for an even more historic exchange, one filled with warmth and laughter, to take up the unfinished business of their 1998 talks. Based on this hope, on May 25 of this year, I openly invited Chairman Wang to come to Taiwan to visit his old friend Chairman Koo, who is so respected on both sides of the Strait.

To hasten this historic day forward, I would like to openly reiterate this invitation with utmost sincerity, so that Mr. Wang can see with his own eyes the earnest welcome and warmth of the Taiwanese people and once more write a new page of history with Chairman Koo.

III. Pragmatic Dialogue

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have by now experienced over ten years of increasingly frequent economic and social exchanges. This accumulated experience has revealed many areas where effective joint action is needed, including currency clearance, investment protection, financial supervision, avoidance of double taxation, product importation, protection of intellectual property rights, judicial assistance, commercial arbitration, fisheries dispute arbitration, personal security, chartered flights and direct transportation links, tourism, repatriation of illegal migrants, joint crime prevention, marine pollution, and fisheries labor negotiations. These are all topics of concern to both sides, where there is space for gains in mutual benefit, but which are not political issues.

Although the cross-Strait dialogue was cut off in 1999, ever since President Chen took office in 2000 he has continuously demonstrated goodwill, but as yet without any positive response. During these past five years, we have observed that the inability to directly communicate has led to increasing misunderstanding and lack of trust between the two sides. We are sure that this is not the wish of the Chinese side. I personally believe that if the two sides can pragmatically negotiate some of these substantive issues, it will enhance mutual understanding and build confidence. In this way we can open a broader vista for the future of cross-Strait relations, moving from instinctive mutual suspicion to a new era of positive cooperation.

To take the first step after these past few years, before the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Mainland Affairs Council began preparing a plan for chartered flights during the Lunar New Year Holidays. This plan has not only received support from the Executive Yuan and the President, but we have also been directed to work towards implementing the policy of chartered flights for passengers and cargo. Thus we have put forward numerous possibilities, including reciprocal flights without landing in third territories, multiple airports and multiple schedules, to pave the way for the implementation of the “Three-Links.”

In order to prepare for negotiations, the Council has already carried out the first stage of training of negotiators with excellent results. The second stage has already been planned and will commence soon. In other words, the Council can be ready at any time to negotiate with China on any practical topic.

IV. Peace and Development

The theme of the recently concluded Fourth Plenum of the16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was "Building of Ruling Capacity of the Party." From the final resolution of the meeting, it is possible to see that, because of the development of China's polity, economy, and society over the past ten years, various situations and difficulties have arisen, including corruption, the urban-rural gap, wealth imbalance, unemployment, etc. These problems have been discussed at length among China's academic community, but this meeting was the first time they have been addressed so frankly at the top level of government. Of course I earnestly hope these issues, now that they are being so addressed, can find solutions.

At the same time, in order to solve these internal problems, peace and stability are the necessary external conditions, and we fully understand why China often puts forward the slogan "peace and development." In this external environment, Taiwan of course is not a problem, and we have never wanted to be one. On the contrary, we can help provide ways of thinking to solve some of these problems. Nonetheless, the current military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait cannot but make one nervous; if a dispute arises accidentally, the escalation of conflict will be difficult to stop. Therefore, we are willing to face this situation together with China, to jointly prepare a "Code of Conduct across the Taiwan Strait."

Such a "Code of Conduct" could include such items as exchanges of military personnel and information, an emergency hotline and reporting system, attending international security conferences together, cooperative prevention of crime, vows to refrain from the use of military force and threats of military force, renunciation of first strike attacks, notification of military exercises, mutual respect of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, and refraining from "locking on" radar to the other side's aircraft or vessels, etc. Some of these measures do not require direct consultations, but each side can undertake them separately but reciprocally; indeed, we have already unilaterally undertaken a number of them. But I believe that as long as both sides are equally committed to the cause of peace and development, we need to have contacts and negotiations, to fully realize such a "Code of Conduct," either in practice or on paper. This will certainly help smoothly promote an environment conducive towards establishing confidence-building measures, demilitarized zones, or peace agreements, in order to jointly establish an interaction framework for peace and stability to prevent any military conflict.

V. Taking the First Step

Ever since I took the post at the Mainland Affairs Council, I have always thought that "peace and development" are the common language of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and until now I see no reason to change this view.

On October 13, Zhang Mingqing, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, stated that "Peace and stability across the Strait conform to the interests and aspirations of compatriots on both sides. China is willing to increase exchanges, cooperation, mutual understanding and mutual trust with Taiwan and jointly usher in a mutual benefit and win-win prospect across the Strait." This statement gives me hope. In order to reach these goals, both sides should have the courage to take the first step of goodwill. Only in this way can we see Mr. Koo and Mr. Wang meet again, or begin pragmatic negotiations, establish an interaction framework for peace and stability, and eventually create a lasting peace. Our plan to implement chartered flights for passengers and cargo already takes a big step towards expressing our goodwill. Now we will wait patiently and out of goodwill for the Chinese side to respond more positively.

This is a translation of a speech by MAC Chairperson Jaushieh Joseph Wu at the Straits Exchange Foundation on October 14, 2004.