Singapore's role in talks is only that of host, says Taiwanese official

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 23, 1993

Singapore's position in next week's China-Taiwan talks would be a neutral one, with its government only playing host to the historical event, said Mr Cheyne Chiu, secretary-general of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), yesterday.

Dismissing any direct involvement of the Singapore Government in the meeting between the SEF's chairman Koo Chen-fu and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Wang Daohan, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats), Mr Chiu added that Singapore was a unanimous choice for the venue by both parties.

Speaking to reporters after his arrival yesterday, he explained that both sides preferred to hold the first high-level meeting in a neutral third country as conducting it in either Taiwan or China would make it "awkward" for the two sides.

He said Singapore was chosen because of the "good leadership and reputation" of its government.

After the first meeting between Mr Koo and Mr Wang, who will also discuss communication channels between the two semi-government bodies handling Taiwan-China relations, future ones could be held in either in China or Taiwan, he said.

Mr Chiu is scheduled to meet Arats' vice-chairman, Mr Tang Shubei, this afternoon in a run-up to the talks proper from Tuesday.

Mr Tang, who arrived late last night, thanked Singapore for playing host to the meeting, saying that he hoped the talks next week would be another breakthrough for ties between the peoples of China and Taiwan.

Among the issues to be raised at the preparatory discussions between Mr Tang and Mr Chiu today would be the agenda for and the venue of next week's talks.

An advance party of SEF officials who visited the NOL Building, the proposed venue of the talks by the Singapore Government, were happy with the location.

The Chinese team, which will be visiting the site today, had expressed reservations because the place is next to the PSA Building where the Taipei Representative Office is located.

Mr Chiu also ruled out the possibility of a Taiwanese opposition party delegation coming to attend the talks as observers.

Earlier, reports from Taiwan said a Democratic Progressive Party team including seven Legislative Yuan members and a law professor from the National Taiwan University, were coming for the talks.

"Both SEF and Arats have never agreed to involve any other parties in the talks," he added.

Agreeing, Mr Tang also pointed out that only officials from Arats and SEF could take part in or attend the talks.

Responding to a question on whether members of the Chinese team would be willing to meet the DPP members after the talks in Singapore, he said: "I hope anyone from Taiwan, even opposition political parties, would support the talks. If they have suggestions and contributions to make, we are willing to meet them in Beijing."