China-Taiwan talks 'important to relations'

This article was first published in The Straits Times on April 26, 1993

The leader of China's semi-government body handling ties with Taiwan, Mr Wang Daohan, said yesterday that his talks tomorrow with his Taiwanese counterpart, Mr Koo Chen-fu, marked an important step in relations between the two territories.

Speaking to reporters on his arrival here, the chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), urged both sides to "get a firm hold on the historic opportunity" and work closer together, though the two-day meeting would be "unofficial, economic, business and functional" in nature.

Mr Wang, 78, a former Shanghai mayor, will meet Mr Koo, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), tomorrow at the NOL Building in Alexandra Road for their first meeting.

It will be the highest-level contact between China and Taiwan in a neutral country since 1949.

Hinting that the talks, which took months of preparations, could go beyond the non-political agenda, Mr Wang said that the two sides should take a more forward-looking attitude to the future.

He added: "We stand for peaceful reunification. 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."

The agenda of the talks, which was finalised by the deputies of Mr Wang and Mr Koo here in the past three days, include actions to be taken against smuggling activities, fishing disputes, illegal immigration, violation of intellectual property rights and economic exchanges between China and Taiwan.

High on the agenda will be the strengthening of economic co-operation between them.

A meeting between two sub-committees to be formed by the Arats and SEF is expected to be held later this year.

Mr Wang, who arrived yesterday with his wife and 11 Arats officials, was received at the airport by Mr See Chak Mun, a deputy secretary from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the press conference, Mr Wang also gave the background leading to his meeting with Mr Koo, whom he described as "a man of great influence in the political circle and the business community in Taiwan".

Mr Koo, 76, who is a senior adviser to President Lee Teng-hui and a member of the ruling Kuomintang or Nationalist Party's Central Standing Committee, will arrive this afternoon. Mr Wang wrote to Mr Koo last August and invited him to a meeting following Arats' formation about two years ago. Taiwan's SEF was also set up about the same time to improve ties between the two territories.

According to Mr Wang, Mr Koo responded to his invitation positively and suggested that their meeting be held in Singapore.

"Out of respect for Mr Koo's wishes, we agreed to hold the talks in Singapore," Mr Wang said.

The two delegation leaders will make separate courtesy calls on Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew this afternoon before they meet each other for their talks tomorrow.

Several agreements, including Authentication Of Documents and Verification Of Lost Registered Mail and another on establishing formal communication links would be signed at the end of their meeting on Wednesday.

They will also issue a joint statement at the signing ceremony, which will be held at the Oriental Hotel.