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KMT Trip to Benefit Cross-Straits Relations

Led by Vice-Chairman P.K. Chiang, a 34-member delegation of Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT) yesterday started a historic visit to the Chinese mainland. The five-day trip is the party's first-ever official visit to the mainland since 1949 when the KMT left the mainland for Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war.

The KMT visit is significant and crucial for the party itself because it offers an opportunity for its members to travel back to the mainland to recall the past. During the trip, the delegation is scheduled to pay homage at the Mausoleum of 72 Martyrs in Guangzhou and visit the Nanjing tomb of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the KMT.

As the KMT considers the visit "ice-breaking," it is hoped the trip will become one reconciliation to help ease recent tensions in cross-Straits relations. In the wake of the newly-passed Anti-Secession Law which targets secessionist forces, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has moved to provoke confrontation across the Straits by distorting the bill.

Ahead of the trip, Chiang told the media that a main purpose of the visit was to promote closer cross-Straits economic exchanges and co-operation. That's because, as Chiang put it, "what the people of Taiwan need is a peaceful and happy life, economic prosperity and more job opportunities, but it is impossible for Taiwan to regain its past prosperity under the current tension."

Speaking on the eve of the visit, KMT Chairman Lien Chan also claimed that it is the duty of the KMT to provide people with alternatives in the face of worsening cross-Straits tensions, resulting from secessionist forces' intensified push for the island's secession from the motherland.

The Taiwan public have thrown their weight behind the KMT trip. While 44.6 per cent of respondents to a recent survey by a Taiwan company said they are in favour of the party's mainland visit, 31.3 per cent were against.

There is no denying that cross-Straits economic relations have made great progress over the past two decades, but more has to be done. Despite growing calls from businesses as well as the public, Taipei still maintains its decades-old ban on the three direct links -- trade, transport and mail services -- across the Taiwan Straits.

While on the mainland, the KMT delegation will exchange views with mainland officials on cross-Straits cargo transportation and other issues of concern to Taiwan business people. Stronger economic ties across the Straits are not only conducive to strengthening Taiwan's economy but are mutually beneficial.

Chiang's trip also comes as an encouraging sign for the promotion of cross-Straits consultations. It has been Beijing's long-standing and consistent policy to talk with whoever is willing to play a part in a cross-Straits dialogue. Chairman Jia Qinglin of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, reaffirmed the policy on January 28. He made it clear that the mainland stands ready to engage in consultation with any political parties, organizations and representatives in Taiwan who recognize the 1992 consensus, oppose "Taiwan independence," and support the development of cross-Straits relations.

Top mainland leaders are expected to meet the KMT delegation when it visits Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday. It is hoped the meeting, through face-to-face exchanges of views on matters of common concern, will help move forward cross-Straits ties. Promoting mutual understanding and trust will benefit people on both sides.

(China Daily March 29, 2005)

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