Talks urged on travellers' safety
By DENNIS ENGBARTH in Taipei
TAIWAN will push for the safety of travellers to be on the agenda at an upcoming round of ''unofficial'' working-level talks with China expected to begin later this month.
Kao Koong-lien, vice-chairman of Taipei's official Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said the number of accidents demonstrated the need for a system for rapid notification of emergencies.
An improved framework was needed for the unofficial intermediary organisations - Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) - to co-ordinate efforts, he said.
On Tuesday, the ARATS agreed to a June 22 proposal by Taipei's SEF to hold a fifth set of working level talks in Taipei on ways to cope with aircraft hijacking, repatriate illegal immigrants and resolve fishing disputes.
ARATS also agreed to a SEF proposal that a second meeting between ARATS Secretary-General Tang Shubei and SEF Secretary-General Chiao Jen-ho be held in Taipei.
ARATS suggested the working-level talks begin on July 25 and that the Chiao-Tang meeting starts July 27.
MAC and SEF leaders met yesterday to discuss how to respond to the ARATS' July 12 message.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Kao said the ARATS message was unclear on several points and did not make a concrete proposal on how many days the two sets of talks should take.
He said that the SEF needed to send another message to ARATS for a specific proposal on the dates to help determine a location.
Mr Kao also said that cross-strait traveller safety had to be added to the agenda.
In the wake of the Lake Qiandao murders of 24 Taiwanese tourists and eight mainlander crew and guides, the SEF has made numerous requests for discussions on traveller safety, but has yet to receive a positive reply.
An SEF spokesman said that the letter would be sent by fax to ARATS tomorrow.
''The MAC did not decide on a meeting date as it wanted to ask the mainland side for clarification on the agenda,'' he said.