Mainland's stand softens

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 May, 1996, 12:00am

IN a friendly gesture towards Taipei, Beijing's semi-official Association for Relation Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) has sent a letter to inform Taiwan of the discovery of the body of a missing air force pilot.

Although Beijing has accused Taiwan of failing to match its words with deeds in repairing cross-strait relations, Taipei officials believe that they have detected growing signs of friendliness from the mainland in the past two weeks.

'The ARATS has sent a letter to the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on May 8 to inform it that mainland fishermen had found the body of a Taiwan air force pilot,' sources said.

'The letter expressed hope that the SEF could relay the message to the pilot's family that the body had been buried on the mainland.' The letter clearly stated the identity of the pilot and listed all the identification papers and personal belongings found with the body.

Four relatives of the dead pilot, including his wife and his sister, left Taiwan for Fuzhou in Fujian province on Thursday to take care of the matter.

A source said that the Taiwan Air Force had round-the-clock air surveillance, and the 27-year-old pilot was reported missing after a suspected accident during a routine flight late last year.

It was impossible that his body had only just been found by mainland fishermen, he said.

It was believed that ARATS had been waiting for an 'appropriate moment' to send the letter to Taipei, the source claimed.

The letter might be connected with efforts to ease relations ahead of tomorrow's inauguration speech by President Lee Teng-hui .

The source said that Taiwan had also been trying to build up a good cross-strait atmosphere.

'The Taiwan Government has expressed support and urged the United States to renew China's Most Favoured Nation trading status,' he said.

'We expect that cross-strait relations will be improved in the latter half of this year and it is hoped that by the end of the year, the atmosphere is good enough that stalled negotiations can be resumed.'