Official plays down role of Beijing talks
By DANIEL KWAN in Taipei
SENIOR representatives from Taiwan and the mainland will meet in Beijing late this month to discuss cross-Strait relations but Taiwan's chief representative has already begun to play down the meeting's significance.
Chiao Jen-ho, Secretary-General of Taiwan's quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), said the sides had yet to agree on the agenda.
In a meeting with Hong Kong reporters yesterday, Mr Chiao denied local reports that he would meet Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen during the visit.
He described such reports as ''speculation'' and said the SEF had yet to discuss details with its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).
The talks are mandated under an agreement signed by SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu and ARATS chairman Wang Daohang last April in Singapore.
''Since the Koo-Wang meeting, there have been a lot of issues between the two organisations [SEF and ARATS] that need to be addressed,'' Mr Chiao said.
He said the Beijing talks would only deal with specific issues within the frame of reference of the two quasi-official organs.
He also made it clear that there would be nothing ''political'' on the agenda during his meeting with ARATS Secretary-General Tang Shubei.
Nevertheless, it is believed that a top priority issue would be the extent of Taiwan's legal jurisdiction.
Previous talks on hijackings and repatriation of illegal immigrants were bogged down because Beijing refused to accept Taiwan's legal jurisdiction.
Mr Chiao said the second Koo-Wang meeting could be held in Beijing or Taipei.
''We cannot always go to a third country for such a meeting,'' he said. ''Holding the event in Beijing or Taipei has the benefit of promoting understanding between the two sides.'' The SEF Secretary-General, a protege of President Lee Teng-hui, reiterated that Beijing must realise that it was still too early to enter into discussions about reunification.
When asked about the prospect of a breakthrough in bilateral relations, he said Beijing needed to be more pragmatic.