Divisions stressed in cross-strait talks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 1998, 12:00am

The top mainland and Taiwan envoys on cross-straits affairs used the first meeting of the highest-level contact on Chinese soil since 1949 to restate their stances on opening reunification talks in what both described as a frank and constructive exchange of views.

In a 60-minute, closed-door meeting at the Peace Hotel, neither side showed any sign of budging, offering little hope of a breakthrough in the yawning gap between their positions during Taiwan envoy Koo Chen-fu's six-day ice-breaking trip.

After a short exchange of platitudes and a brief review of cross-strait ties since their first Singapore encounter in 1993, both negotiators wasted little time in going through old ground.

Top mainland negotiator Wang Daohan insisted the key to improving cross-strait relations lay in opening political negotiations, while Mr Koo resisted the view, sticking to Taipei's line that the priority for any talks must be practical matters affecting the safety of Taiwanese residents and investors on the mainland.

'The key to bringing forward the current stage of cross-straits ties comprehensively is to promote cross-strait political negotiations,' Mr Wang told his guest.

He insisted the start of political talks would create better conditions for both sides to resolve the practical economic matters Mr Koo referred to.

Mr Koo, however, said that he felt there was an urgent need to deal with the practical problems arising from increasing Taiwanese civilians' visits to, and trade and investment on, the mainland.

'The urgent task now is to comply with the Singapore agreement, to quickly restart institutionalised dialogue and resolve these non-political concerns of the people,' Mr Koo said.

Mr Wang is chairman of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and Mr Koo chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

ARATS sought to lend a political hue to yesterday's meeting, when deputy director Tang Shubei, briefing the press after the Koo-Wang talks, said: 'I am happy to tell all of you the political talks [which China seeks] have started on the eighth floor [of the Peace Hotel].' Mr Tang said Taiwan's ban on direct trade, transport and mail links between the two sides had adversely affected the interests of its people.

He blamed Taiwan for the worsening relations between the two sides, accusing Taipei of effectively promoting the concept of 'two Chinas'.

'We have to have mutual trust first,' said Mr Tang. 'You could not previously agree there was 'one-China' and later deny having said it.' Earlier Mr Koo said that both sides must develop trust.