Legislator calls for reunification

TAIWAN legislator John Kuan yesterday urged the senior echelon of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to put aside personal interests and set a clear goal of national reunification with China.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Kuan, who is a core member of the New Kuomintang Alliance - a pro-unification faction within the KMT - criticised fellow legislators for lacking vision to deal with the mainland's communist regime.

''Why is Taiwan unstable today? Why is the KMT divided? This is all because we don't have a well-defined policy . . . on our cross-straits relationship,'' he said.

For example, he said, Taiwan's leadership should define the role of the Mainland Affairs Commission (MAC) - a government organ responsible for the drafting of policy - so it can forge a healthy working relationship with the semi-official Straits ExchangeFoundation (SEF), the organisation responsible for Taiwan's day-to-day dealings with China.

Taiwan still operates an official ban on contact with the mainland, but unofficially the two sides continue to have a myriad of exchanges.

Mr Kuan said while the MAC was established to serve as a ''brake'' in monitoring contacts with the mainland, the SEF was formed to promote exchanges with Beijing.

''It indicates that we don't have a consensus among the senior echelon on our mainland policy,'' he said.

He blamed the policy void on some senior KMT members and said the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was also responsible for tension between Taiwan and the mainland.

However, the senior legislator pointed out that the ball remained in Beijing's court.

He urged China's leaders on the one hand to soften their attitude towards Taiwan and on the other to engage in negotiations to pave the way for unification.

But he said it was unwise for Beijing to push too hard for early talks on political issues, a move which could cause insecurity in Taiwan.

Instead, the Communist Party should for the moment concentrate on uncontroversial matters such as cultural and academic exchanges.

He also said the process of reunification would not be served if the international community isolated Taiwan or Taiwan was threatened with military action by China.

There has been speculation in Taiwan that the New Kuomintang Alliance might join hands with the DPP to check and balance the ruling party.

But Mr Kuan said the alliance would not establish a close link with the DPP due to the latter's pro-independence position, although the two groups might share similar views on domestic issues.

He said the alliance had no immediate plans to discuss unification with mainland officials but he welcomed unofficial contact through such channels as academic conferences held in cities like Hongkong.