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President June 20 Press Conference ( excerpt : cross-strait relations )

  • Date:2000-06-20

II. Opening Remarks by President Chen

On June 13, you saw the leaders of North and South Korea make history with a handshake. North and South Korea confronted each other for half a century, and their ideologies were totally contradictory. I am confident that with wisdom and creativity, we can accomplish mission impossible. I have great respect for the leaders of North and South Korea, who took this great, historic step. This historic handshake photo is hung in my study. I will always cherish it, because their actions serve as a model for me to follow. If North and South Korea could do it, why cant the two sides of the strait? I believe that the leaders of the two sides have the same wisdom and creativity. Together we can rewrite and create history. I sincerely call upon Mr. Jiang Zemin, the leader of Beijing, to work together with me to create a historic moment of handshakes, just as North and South Korea did. Without specifying any conditions, formality, or locations, we can sit down, shake hands, and reconcile. I believe it is the common aspiration of the people on both sides of the strait to have the two leaders make their greatest contributions.

I believe many of you have listened to and read my May 20 inaugural address. However, I must remind you, unlike what people have said, my remarks on cross-strait relations did not just emphasize what we would not do. In fact, the address contains much of what we would do. For example, I said, as President of the Republic of China, I want to abide by the ROC Constitution; safeguard national sovereignty, dignity and security; and seek the peoples greatest welfare. Another example--I hope the leaders of the two sides can use their wisdom and creativity, based on the principles of democracy and parity, to jointly create a new environment of cross-strait cooperation. Another example, as I said before, I hope the two sides of the strait can respect the free choice of the people on both sides. The two sides should work together, based on the existing foundation, to resolve the future one-China problem. I believe that the international community can sense my goodwill, our sincerity, and the responsibilities that the people have placed on me. We hope to put aside our differences and seek common ground. Based on the existing foundation, we are confident that the two sides of the strait can truly resolve the future one-China problem. Regarding the existing foundation, I want to emphasize that any results and consensus reached in past contacts, dialogue, or negotiations conducted between Taipeis Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in Beijing constitute such a foundation.

The other side of the Taiwan Strait says that a consensus was reached on the one-China principle in 1992. However, we dont think that was the case. The one-China issue was discussed, but no consensus was reached. We proposed that, if there was to be a consensus, then it should be that each side could have its own interpretation of one China. But the opposite shore does not think that such a consensus was reached. If we are to say that there was an agreement, then it was that we agreed to disagree. We agreed that the two sides could have their own opinions. I think that this is excellent. As long as we have the sincerity, goodwill, and willingness to take this historic step forward and shake hands in reconciliation, then why cant we continue our efforts to find the genuine meaning of one China that is acceptable to both sides? I hope that the two sides can reach a conclusion on a basis that is mutually acceptable. I hope that the people of Taiwan, the citizens of the ROC--including myself--and both the ruling and opposition parties can advance toward the aspirations and goals stated in my inaugural speech. I hope that the future situation will be much better.

III. Question and Answer Session

Q1: Mr. President, you have just said that you are envious of the leaders of the two Koreas shaking hands for reconciliation. And you hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will shake hands and reconcile, finding an interpretation of one China that is acceptable to both sides. At the end of June, the inter-party committee will convene to discuss cross-strait questions. Will the consolidation of a consensus over the interpretation of one China be the first mission entrusted to the committee? Furthermore, you mentioned that you will invite the leaders of the three main political parties to shake hands and reconcile. Will the chairmen of the three political parties be members of the inter-party committee?

A: The operation of the inter-party committee is now a responsibility of President Lee Yuan-tseh of the Academia Sinica. The list of members will probably be released very soon, and a meeting will be held immediately afterwards. We hope to reach a consensus among the ruling and opposition parties and achieve a consensus on cross-strait questions. This will definitely be an arduous task, since we are a democracy and a pluralistic society which allows diverse ideologies. However, as long as we take the first step in making the inter-party mechanism work to reach a national consensus, we will give the other side of the strait a chance to understand the democratic and pluralistic nature of Taiwan society which is so different from theirs. The mainland authorities allow only one opinion in the entire nation; and from the top down and from the bottom up, only one opinion is allowed. But in Taiwan, we cant do that. When differences of opinion continue to increase, then we can never be compatible. Why don't we work from our existing consensus and the conclusions we have already agreed upon, so that we can deduce topics for further consideration? Just living with differences, while searching for similarities, can pull us together. If we take the contrary view, the two sides will drift farther apart. This is certainly not the situation we want. In the future, the selection and recruitment of the inter-party committee members will be the responsibilities of the ad hoc committee. I am not in a position to pick its members, nor will I intervene in its duty. It is something I dont want to do. After all, I hope that the leaders of the major political parties will come together, shake hands and reconcile, concentrating on state affairs as the theme for discussion. Of course, the question of relations across the Taiwan Strait is only one aspect of state affairs. Today, if the leaders of the three major political parties come together, cross-strait relations will never be the only theme for discussion. There will be many domestic issues which need to be discussed to develop a consensus among different factions and parties. They should work cooperatively for the nation and its people.

Q3: You have specifically mentioned the Korean model just now. North and South Korea are both members of the United Nations, and recently their leaders met face to face in a dialogue on the basis of parity without any preset conditions. It was because of these factors that they can contribute positively to peace in Northeast Asia. You have expressed your goodwill to China in your inaugural speech, and your effort to maintain cross-strait stability has received great praise in the international community. Unfortunately, however, China has still not made the expected response. Since you have again mentioned the Korean model, may I ask you to elaborate on its significance in this regard?

A: I have met recently with many foreign visitors, including the heads of renowned research institutes. Some of them mentioned that we could look forward to future cross-strait reconciliation, just as the day has already arrived for North and South Korea. They are right, but there are requisite conditions that must be met. In their analysis there first must be a new leader. South Korea, for example, has a new leader, President Kim Dae-jung. Therefore, the condition is right. The situation has changed. Second, North Korea must be politically stable, which is crucial to its willingness to take this first step. Third, of course, is the international environment and the timing. Can we remain antagonistic without shaking hands in reconciliation after half a century? Reconciliation is a new ideal in this world and a global mainstream trend. This is an era of reconciliation. These three conditions are more feasible in the year 2000. That's why North and South Korea have been able to take this great step forward.

Our foreign visitors also made comparisons. Don't Taiwan and the mainland have similar conditions that are mature at this time? Today, Taiwan has a new leader. On the Chinese mainland, PRC President Jiang Zemin's political position is more stable than before. Likewise, the time factor and the international environment have positioned the leaders of the two sides in a positive and favorable direction--toward handshakes and reconciliation. Of course, I also understand that goodwill and sincerity on one side alone are not enough; they must be mutual. I understand the difficulties of the issue. I know Taiwan's restrictions as well. However, we also enjoy many superior and advantageous conditions in the Asia-Pacific strategic context.

From March 18 to May 20, and from May 20 until June 20, we have demonstrated our willingness and goodwill to work toward reconciliation, positive cooperation, and everlasting peace. This is a common goal for the concerted efforts of the leaders, governments, and peoples on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. I believe that as long as we work with the intent and dedication of realizing this aspiration and vision, we will definitely benefit. I am confident and optimistic that you will all give greater encouragement and support to the new government. We must not get out of step. As long as we form a consensus and unite in solidarity, we will have the greatest and the most resolute strength to create everlasting peace in the Taiwan Strait.

Q4: Some high-ranking officials of Taiwan recently said that the US should play a more active role in cross-strait relations, but should not intervene in this relationship by taking specific actions. What do you expect the US to do to promote cross-strait negotiations? Are you optimistic about the early resumption of cross-strait dialogue?

A: In 1982, the US government set forth the Six Guarantees to Taiwan. One of them emphasizes that the United States would not mediate between Taiwan and mainland China. I am confident that this US policy remains unchanged.

However, when Beijing issued its white paper on one China on February 21 of this year, we noticed that President Clinton mentioned several times that the two sides should resolve their problems peacefully. He even prohibited the Chinese mainland from using military force. Cross-strait issues should be resolved through negotiations. President Clinton also mentioned for the first time this year the fourth pillar of US policy toward Chinasuch issues should be resolved with the consent of the people of Taiwan. This is also what I said just now about respecting the peoples free will.

Although the US will not be a mediator, it surely can play a more active role. For example, President Clinton has mentioned several times that cross-strait issues should be resolved with the assent of the people of Taiwan and on the basis of the Taiwan peoples free will. This is sure proof that the US is playing a more active role.

I am confident that the US can continue to play an even more active role, if it is willing to do so. Ensuring lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait is in the interest of not only Taiwan, but also the US. The fact that my inaugural speech was praised by the US and the international community proves that Taiwan has no communication problems with others. In fact, Taiwan and the international community share the same views on many issues. On this basis, Taiwan will work more diligently in the future. We hope that the concept of one China should be established on a foundation that is acceptable to both sides, so that a conclusion can be reached on the basis of that foundation. I believe that agree to disagree is the best consensus for the two sides at the current stage. We sincerely expect that the ROC and the US can jointly make greater efforts and contributions toward maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait, as well as safeguarding the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

Q5: Mr. President, you have just mentioned that the inter-party committee led by President Lee Yuan-tseh of the Academia Sinica will be formed by the end of June. Where will this inter-party committee stand in the present decision-making system? How will it interact with the National Unification Council that is about to be reorganized but about which no news has been heard, and with the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation?

A: I covered this in my May 20 inauguration speech. In other words, at present there is no question of abolishing the National Unification Council (NUC) or the Guidelines for National Unification. The NUC will continue to exist. Regarding the NUC's function, since the new government has just been formed, we hope to have ample time for relevant agencies to thoroughly discuss, study, and provide the results for my reference. I believe the roles played by the MAC and the SEF cannot be replaced by the inter-party committee. I believe that we will continue to rely on the SEF as the agency for communication with the mainland. We will also continue to rely on its Chairman Koo Chen-fu. Nothing will change. The inter-party committee, like the NUC or the National Security Council (NSC), is consultative and functions behind the scenes. Today, the inter-party committee also functions as a consultative body; therefore, it will not replace the NUC, MAC, or SEF. We hope that it will meet frequently to develop a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties. We hope the various sectors of society can give more encouragement and support to the inter-party committee when it begins operation. Thank you!

Q7: I would like to ask a question on cross-strait issues. Currently, Beijing has still taken the wait and see attitude and constantly expanded its military forces. It does not show goodwill. Will this affect the three links policy? Where is the bottom line? Will you yield on the issue of one China to show goodwill?

A: I reiterate that to preserve national security, we will comprehensively review and promote the three links, (direct mail, transportation, and trade with the Chinese mainland), according to market forces, and to proportional and reciprocal principles. Why didnt I mention the three links in my inaugural speech? The main reason is I know that, if the two sides of the strait cannot sit down to meet, talk, and negotiate, it will be impossible to implement the three links, or even the three mini links, because they relate to the issues of ports, quarantine, and customs. These need communication and dialogue. Therefore, the major problem is reopening dialogue between the two sides of the strait, as we did in the Koo-Wang Talks. If we cannot reach this step, the three links and the three mini links will not be possible. I am willing to make the most sincere effort, and I hope the leaders of the two sides will use wisdom, creativity, and responsibility to resume consultations and continuously cooperate.

Q8: You have just mentioned the situation on the Korean Peninsula. North and South Korea are discussing cooperation in the World Cup Soccer tournament to be held in another two years' time. What is your view on Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics in relation to cross-strait issues?

A: Nothing is impossible under the sun. As a Taiwanese, I would give my best wishes for Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics and will not exclude the possibility of our support for Beijing's bid in the future. Although holding some of the 2008 Olympic Games in Taiwan seems to be a very sensitive issue and rather unlikely now, we would not rule out the possibility eight years later. As long as we are sincere and willing to reconcile, there is nothing impossible under the sun.

Q10: Mr. President, while meeting with foreign guests you mentioned the idea of establishing a confederation across the Taiwan Strait for the first time. Is this a new concept or new way of thinking that can be further considered by the people to establish a consensus? If so, could you please explain it in a more concrete fashion?

A: The idea of setting up a confederation was not raised at any meeting with foreign guests; rather, it was mentioned during my visit to Senior Advisor to the President Sun Yun-suan. I do not think we have any preconceptions on such an idea, nor do we have any pre-established premises or conclusions on the subject. Instead, we are trying to keep our minds open on the entire matter in order to leave plenty of room for the opinions of leaders on the Chinese mainland side.

I am confident that, when North and South Korea sat down for their historic talks, it did not imply that they had delineated all pre-established premises and perspectives. As far as I know, both North and South Korea still have fairly diverse interpretations of the unification policy of the Korean Peninsula. At the present stage, the sides have inconsistent positions on this topic; and South Korea still considers it too early even for proposals regarding the establishment of a federal system or setting up a confederation, let alone discussing reunification. Still, even in the absence of any pre-established premises, the two Koreas have been inspired to sit down together for talks.

Returning to the so-called confederation that was mentioned, such a proposal is just one of the basic ideas that could eventually be formulated into a working plan based on the development of future cross-strait relations. Whether it will work is heavily dependent upon the decision of the people. After all, it is their will and freedom of choice that must be respected. I do not feel that the future of Taiwan and cross-strait relations are my personal decisions, nor do I believe it to be within the monopoly of any particular political party. The people must speak for themselves. Only the 23 million residents of Taiwan have the right to decide which way they will go in the future. Thank you.