Chen throws down a talks gauntlet to Hu
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian dared President Hu Jintao yesterday to accept the 'Republic of China' before they could hold talks.
In an unprecedented live televised meeting with opposition Kuomintang rival Ma Ying-jeou, Mr Chen repeatedly denied the existence of the so-called '1992 consensus' that Mr Ma said could be used as a basis for the two sides to resume talks and reach a peace accord. The pair also discussed Taiwan's long-delayed arms deal with the US, with Mr Chen saying the opposition was putting the island at risk by repeatedly blocking it.
In 1992, negotiators from Taiwan and the mainland held talks in Hong Kong, during which they reportedly agreed that 'there is only one China, but each side can have its own interpretation of the meaning of 'one China'.'
'The KMT's so-called '1992 consensus' is 'one China, different interpretations', but the mainland consensus is 'one China'. So can KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan ... ask President Hu Jintao to publicly declare that the 1992 consensus is 'one China, different interpretations',' Mr Chen asked, referring to a meeting between Mr Lien and Mr Hu tentatively scheduled for later this month in Beijing.
Mr Chen said that in contrast to the KMT's definition of 'one China' as 'the Republic of China' - the official title now used by Taiwan - Beijing insisted that one China was 'the People's Republic of China', which had been clearly written in the constitution by the mainland government.
If Mr Hu agreed to declare his acceptance of 'different interpretations', Mr Chen told Mr Ma that he would be willing to hold talks with Beijing based on such a consensus.
Mr Chen told Mr Ma in their first official meeting since the popular Taipei mayor became KMT leader last year that it was merely wishful thinking and naive for some people to think that cross-strait disputes could be resolved through the '1992 consensus'.
Yesterday's meeting, which lasted for more than two hours, was held at Mr Ma's suggestion. Mr Ma said he felt the need to advise Mr Chen on how to resolve the cross-strait crisis after returning from a successful US visit during which senior American officials approved his policy of maintaining the status quo and becoming a stakeholder in maintaining peace in the region.
But Mr Chen repeatedly rejected Mr Ma's proposals to ease cross-strait tensions, including opening direct transport links with the mainland, signing a peace accord and increasing cross-strait exchanges.
Mr Chen said Beijing was unreliable, and there was no way to guarantee it would not go back on its word after signing a peace accord with Taiwan.
He criticised Mr Ma and his party for stalling the arms deal with the US, saying it would only put Taiwan in a dangerous position. 'If your party really supports reasonable defence, it would never have blocked the budget proposal more than 40 times,' he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ma told Mr Chen he was fooling the public by saying he had scrapped the National Unification Council, whose goal was cross-strait unification. He said even the US had said the council still existed.
But Mr Chen said that regardless of what the US had said, the council no longer existed. He also said that to defend Taiwan's sovereignty, there was a need to revise the constitution to uphold the island's separate identity from the mainland.