Taiwan still hoping for Ma, Xi to meet at international setting
Central News Agency
2014-03-04 10:26 PM
Taipei, March 4 (CNA) If President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping meet in the near future, Taiwan's government is holding out hopes the historic event will take place in an international setting, even after a top Chinese negotiator to Taiwan hinted such a meeting could take place at "a third place" instead. Taiwan's Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Tuesday that the government's priority is for the two to meet at a global event like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in Beijing this year. Earlier in the day, Taiwan's United Daily News quoted Sun Yafu, vice president of Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), as saying there was plenty of "room for imagination" over the venue for any Ma-Xi meeting, which would be determined through negotiations between the two sides. The deputy head of the semi-official body implied Singapore would be a possible choice, running contrary to Ma's stated personal preference of a major international setting -- a proposal Beijing has seemingly been reluctant to accept. Asked about the report by lawmakers, Jiang said that "security agencies" would assess the proposal, but emphasized that "our priority consideration" is an international event. Asked by legislator Lu Shiow-yen of the ruling Kuomintang whether that means the government would accept a "third place" venue, the premier explained that "not ruling it out at present" does not mean "we agree to it and will make it our top priority." Taiwan will not give up its position just because of differences of opinion in the first round of discussion on an international setting, Jiang said. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has meanwhile called for transparency in cross-strait affairs.

DPP spokesman Lin Chun-hsien said the party's stance is that the government should be open and transparent in its talks with China and should not handle ties behind closed doors. As President Ma represents the entire country, he should be firm on Taiwan's sovereignty, Lin said, adding that he should clearly explain to the public the purpose of wishing to meet with Xi. Lin noted that the Ma administration backs the meeting being held in an international setting. But now that China has broached the idea of "a third place," Lin questioned what the term means: a "third country" or just a place other than Taiwan or the mainland, like China-owned Hong Kong or Macau? The Cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policymaker, said in response it will communicate with the public on a principle of "openness and transparency." Ma has advocated holding the encounter at the APEC summit in Beijing, but China has been cool to the idea, apparently concerned that Ma's appearance at the international gathering would hint at Taiwan's sovereignty. Beijing has consistently blocked Taiwan's president from attending APEC meetings, forcing him to send an envoy instead. If Singapore is ultimately selected as a possible meeting place, the city-state would become an even more important part in the history of high-level talks between Taiwan and China. The first high-level cross-strait talks since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949 took place in Singapore in April 1993, when Wang Daohan, then president of ARATS, held talks with his counterpart Koo Chen-fu, then chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. (By Tseng Ying-yu, Justine Su and Lilian Wu)

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