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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Channelnewsasia.com > Clinton calls for further Taiwan-China ties

Channelnewsasia.com: "Clinton calls for further Taiwan-China ties

TAIPEI : Former US president Bill Clinton said Taiwan and China should build on goodwill generated by the first cross-strait flights in 55 years to foster a peaceful resolution to their disputes.


In an interview with local Eastern cable television network shortly before his departure, Clinton said he was encouraged by the recent developments between the island and the Chinese mainland.

"When you worked out the last charter flights (to and from China), you've shared responsibilities to allow people to come home for the Chinese New Year to Taiwan," Clinton said.

The two rivals launched three weeks of direct flights for the first time since they split in 1949 to transport Taiwanese businesspeople home over the Chinese Lunar New Year period.

Taipei had previously banned direct transport links with the mainland, only allowing exchanges with stops in third ports, conscious of Beijing's threat to invade if the island moves towards independence.

"What I think should be done is that you should build on the positive context," Clinton said.

"To leap from economic integration to inter-dependence, you have to have sharing. You have to share responsibilities. You have to share opportunities. And you have to share the value that what you have in common is more important than your differences."

Despite Clinton's efforts to promote peace in the area, the Taiwan visit, coming on the heels of his trip to the mainland to promote AIDS awareness, irritated China.

Beijing said Clinton should honour past US promises on the Taiwan question -- such as abiding by the one-China policy, under which Beijing regards Taiwan as part of China, and opposing the island's independence.

Clinton denied his visit marked any policy shift.

"I sincerely stand by the one-China policy ... I sincerely hope to see peace in the Taiwan Strait. At the same time I urge them both to solve their disputes peacefully," he said in an interview in Tokyo.

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split in 1949 after a civil war. But China still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

China views President Chen Shui-bian as a dangerous "splittist" who is heading down the road towards formal independence -- a move that it would see as an act of war.

But in his latest peace overture to Beijing, Chen held reconciliation talks with a Taiwan opposition leader Thursday last week and reaffirmed a promise not to push for independence.

Chen also promised in his meeting with James Soong, chairman of the People First Party, to seek ways to normalize relations with China to promote cross-strait peace.

Clinton flew to Taipei Sunday and met with Chen after giving a public speech.

On Monday, Clinton met Chen again and opposition leader Lien Chan. He also signed copies of his autobiography "My Life" at Taipei 101, the world's tallest building, before he left for Singapore. - AFP

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