SCMP Thursday, May 18, 2000

KMT still sees cross-strait role

DANIEL KWAN in Taipei


The Kuomintang will continue to play an active role in cross-strait dialogue although the party lost the elections, the party's acting chairman Lien Chan said yesterday.

The party, which lost the March 18 presidential poll to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), would seek "dialogue with [China's] Communist Party", said Mr Lien. "The KMT will not be absent [in cross-strait exchanges]," he said.

Despite Mr Lien's remarks, KMT spokesman Jason Hu said the outgoing Vice-President had no plans to visit the mainland in the near future. The KMT's reign in Taiwan will end on Saturday when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian is sworn in as president.

Speaking at a central committee meeting of the KMT, Mr Lien, who was the KMT's presidential candidate, urged Mr Chen to resume dialogue with the mainland. The meeting was held to discuss a number of reform measures for the KMT.

He also made a direct attack on Mr Chen's mainland policies. "Cross-strait ties are now full of uncertainties because of Mr Chen's insecure and incomplete mainland policies," Mr Lien was quoted by Taiwanese media as saying.

Mr Lien said the many suggestions he made during the presidential campaign - from opening direct trade and signing investment protection pacts with the mainland - were practical and feasible. Unlike the DPP, which is an advocate of Taiwan independence, the KMT still maintains that Taiwan is part of the mainland and aims for eventual reunification.

Although Mr Chen has made a number of goodwill gestures to ease tension with the mainland since he won the election, he has repeatedly been criticised by Beijing, which is demanding that he accept Taiwan as part of the mainland under the "one China" principle.

On internal reforms, Mr Lien made it clear he would spend the next four years focusing on party matters and groom a future generation of KMT leaders.

"My most important task now is to do a good job as party chairman," he said. He confirmed that he would run for the KMT's top post next month.

President Lee Teng-hui was forced to step down as KMT chairman after taking responsibility for the election defeat amid criticism by party members.

One of the young KMT leaders, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, yesterday again demanded speedier reforms and direct election of the party chairman. He suggested that an election be held at the end of this year or early next year.

At present, the chairman is elected by senior party members. Mr Lien made no decision on the election method yesterday and referred the issue to a special meeting to be held next month.