Talks off to smooth start as senior officials agree on venue

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 1993

Preparatory discussions between senior Chinese and Taiwanese officials for their talks in Singapore next week started smoothly yesterday, with both parties agreeing on many preliminary details, including the venue of the meeting.

Mr Tang Shubei, vice-chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats), China's semi-government body handling ties with Taiwan, met his Taiwanese counterpart, Mr Cheyne Chiu, secretary-general of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), at the NOL Building in Alexandra Road.

During their two-hour discussions, which were attended by other senior officials as well, they agreed that the conference room on the 26th level of NOL Building, where they met yesterday, would also be the venue for next week's meeting.

Arats' chairman Wang Daohan will meet SEF chief Koo Chen-fu for the talks, the highest-level contact between the two sides since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Mr Tang said at a press briefing that the two delegation leaders will begin their two-day talks on Tuesday.

At a separate press briefing, Mr Chiu said the agenda would be "functional, administrative and technical" and it had been finalised.

The major issues are future communication channels between the two sides, repatriation of illegal immigrants, criminal activities, fishing disputes and economic matters.

He said the two delegations would concentrate on resolving such urgent problems as protecting Taiwanese investments in mainland China and bilateral trade.

A Reuter report quoted Mr Chiu as saying, after the discussions, that China turned down a Taiwanese request to sign an agreement safeguarding the island's investments but promised to review the issue.

The meeting yesterday also set the time-frame for future contacts between their officials.

After the Singapore talks next week, director-level meetings will be held once in three months and secretary-general level discussions, such as those between Mr Tang and Mr Chiu, will take place half-yearly.

The meetings will be held either in China or Taiwan.

The two sides expressed hope that future meetings between Mr Wang and Mr Koo can be held at least once a year.

Meanwhile, reports from Taiwan said that Mr Koo, whose family was branded by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party legislators as traitors during the Japanese Occupation years, had threatened to quit his post as head of the semi-government body in charge of ties with China.

Asked if Mr Koo would change his mind about coming to the talks in Singapore, Mr Chiu said: "I have no contact with Taipei since my arrival in Singapore and I read about the incident only through newspapers reports faxed to me today.

"I regret what happened, but I hope Mr Koo will still come for the talks."

Mr Tang said his delegation leader, Mr Wang, was scheduled to arrive in Singapore tomorrow while Mr Koo would come on Monday.

During their stay here, the two leaders will meet Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.