Beijing agrees to cross-strait meeting
JASON BLATT in Taipei
Beijing yesterday gave Taiwan the green light to send a delegation from the island's semi-official cross-strait mediation body to the mainland as both sides prepared to re-start negotiations after a 33-month break.
Approval was expressed in a letter faxed to Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation from the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
In the letter, the association agreed to host a foundation delegation led by a deputy secretary-general.
It recommended the group visit on April 21 or 22 'or another time both sides find acceptable'.
Lee Ching-ping, a deputy secretary-general of the foundation, said his organisation would make detailed arrangements and offer a positive response to Beijing's suggestion within a few days.
The association letter said it hoped the foundation delegation would 'exchange opinions' with it on the proposed visit to the mainland by foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu, and a possible seminar on cross-strait issues to be jointly hosted by the organisations.
Mr Koo last met his mainland counterpart, association chairman Wang Daohan, in Singapore when the two signed an historic 1993 cross-strait agreement setting a regular schedule for Taipei-Beijing talks.
Beijing halted the scheduled talks in mid-1995 after Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui made a private trip to the United States.
The breakthrough followed reports suggesting Beijing would soon dispatch its new kilo-class submarines to waters southeast of Taiwan.
The reports said the new Russian-built submarines would be monitoring an upcoming Taiwanese military exercise as part of training.
Officials at Taiwan's Defence Ministry and its Central Bank Governor, urged calm yesterday as share prices on the island's stock exchange fell 2.1 per cent, partly on news of the exercises.
During a legislative hearing, Governor Perng Fai-nan promised his bank would staunchly defend the New Taiwan dollar if Beijing staged threatening military exercises, as it did in late 1995 and early 1996.
The ministry said Taiwan's armed forces were 'closely monitoring' their mainland counterparts for any unusual movements.
Taiwanese people should feel 'at ease', the statement said.
Unnamed ministry officials said the reports lacked credibility on some counts, adding it was common for mainland subs to appear off the Taiwan coast.