Reunification will not be discussed - Taiwan

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 27, 1993

Taiwan's chief negotiator, Mr Koo Chen-fu, indicated yesterday that there was no chance of the topic of political reunification of China and Taiwan being added to the agenda for his talks here with the Chinese delegation leader, Mr Wang Daohan.

Mr Koo, who arrived in Singapore yesterday for the meeting which begins today, said he would stick to the strictly non-political list drawn up by his and Mr Wang's deputies.

"The meeting will be about civilian, administrative, economic and functional matters between two private organisations," stressed the 76-year-old chairman of the Taiwanese Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a semi-govern-ment body that handles ties with China.

He was replying to a question - at a press conference soon after his arrival with his wife and nine other SEF officials - on whether his contact with Mr Wang would lead to a discussion of reunification of the two territories.

He expressed hope that his meeting with Mr Wang, head of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), would help to formalise contacts between people from the two sides so that cultural, social as well as economic exchanges would continue to develop.

Mr Koo, a prominent business leader in Taiwan who is also senior adviser to President Lee Teng-hui, and Mr Wang will discuss seven items agreed earlier between their deputies at the talks' preparatory stage.

The issues include ille-gal immigration, economic co-operation, fishing disputes, communication links and the protection of intellectual property.

Mr Koo's view on the inclusion of the topic of reunification in the talks at NOL Building differed from that of Mr Wang's.

Mr Wang, 78, a former mayor of Shanghai and a close associate of Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, hinted on his arrival on Sunday that though the talks would be non-political in nature, he was prepared to discuss the issue of reunification with his Taiwanese counterpart.

He said: "As both sides share the wish to develop better mutual relations and achieve peaceful reunification, there is nothing we cannot sit down and talk about."

Mr Koo said yesterday that he was optimistic about the outcome of the meeting and was happy that both sides were changing their attitude towards each other.

He noted that their relationship had evolved from a "confrontational" one to that of a "reconciliatory" and "mutually beneficial" one.

He acknowledged, however, that after a separation of more than 40 years, the people of Taiwan and China had developed very different lifestyles and thinking and time would be needed for them to bridge their differences.

He was also glad that contacts between the two were increasing rapidly. He said that more than four million Taiwanese had visited China in recent years and thousands of companies from Taiwan have investments there.

Quoting President Lee Teng-hui, he said their ties were not confined to their common geographical, historical and cultural origins. Using the analogy of "blood is thicker than water", he said the people of the two sides were inseparable.

At least two agreements, one on the authentication of documents and another on verification of lost mail, are expected to be signed by Mr Koo and Mr Wang following the end of their two-day talks tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon, the two leaders met Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew separately at the Istana.