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June 24, 2017

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Send an invitation to Wen

On Friday, mainland Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that he would be keenly interested in visiting Taiwan. Responding to a question from a Taiwanese reporter, Wen said that even though he is already 67 years old, he would like to visit Taiwan if such a visit would be possible.

"I would like to go even if I cannot walk and have to crawl," he said.

Wen's statement about visiting Taiwan was couched in Beijing's usual political rhetoric claiming Taiwan as part of the territory of the People's Republic of China.

However, our government would be wise to respond swiftly to Wen's statement by sending a formal invitation to his office.

Wen should be welcomed to make a visit to Taiwan, either in his official capacity or merely as an ordinary tourist.

A visit to Taiwan by Premier Wen would certainly not suddenly change Beijing's longstanding policies toward Taiwan.

However, we strongly believe that contact and dialogue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is always a good thing.

And when contact and dialogue involves high-ranking leaders, the chances for good results down the road greatly improve.

Our own Premier Liu Chao-shiuan has done the right thing by saying that a visit by Wen would be welcomed, although such a visit would need to be carefully planned.

We point to the example of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whose historic 1977 visit to Israel started a series of events that ended with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement at Camp David two years later.

On Nov. 9, 1977, while addressing the Egyptian parliament, Sadat unexpectedly announced that he would be willing to visit Egypt's longtime adversary Israel, with which Egypt had fought several wars.

At the time, Sadat's offer was not taken seriously in the international community.

But Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin responded by swiftly issuing an official invitation to Sadat within a few days.

Sadat surprised the world even more by promptly accepting the invitation and flying to Israel in late November. During his visit, Sadat delivered an address to Israel's parliament, which was immediately followed by a response speech from Prime Minister Begin.

Sadat did not back down from Egypt's basic stances during his visit, and indeed repeatedly urged Israel to return Egyptian territories seized during their 1967 war.

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