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June 24, 2017

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Mainland Affairs Council deputy minister calls for pragmatism from Beijing

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Beijing should take a pragmatic stance by accepting the fact that Taipei governs a sovereign country, a Taiwan policymaker for cross-strait affairs urged yesterday, as his China counterpart stressed that Chinese leaders are sincere and honest in seeking to advance political ties between the two sides.

Chang Hsien-yao, deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said the significance and essence of the so-called "1992 Consensus" lay in the fact that Taipei and Beijing trust each other without either denying the other's status quo, and that disputes should be set aside.

Chang said at a forum in Taipei that stable and friendly cross-strait ties over the past four years have been enabled by the "1992 Consensus," and the crucial factor affecting cross-strait ties in the future will be mainstream public opinion in Taiwan.

"Mainstream public opinion in Taiwan is that the Republic of China (is a sovereign country)," said Chang. "If (Beijing) can take a pragmatic stance by accepting the fact the Republic of China exists, this would be the most solid base for neither side denying the status quo of the other."

Sun Yafu, deputy chief of China's Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, did not directly respond to Chang's remarks while speaking at the same forum, but said that Beijing's latest calls for cross-strait political talks are sincere and honest.

He stressed that China is determined to pursue peaceful development in the Taiwan Strait.

One of Beijing's major lines governing cross-strait ties is to establish a political base for peaceful cross-strait relations under the firm belief that Taiwan and the mainland belong to the same country, which is China, Sun said.

They were speaking at a forum marking the 20th anniversary of the "1992 Consensus," which is said to have been reached between Taipei and Beijing negotiators, that both sides may disagree on the meaning of "one China."

But the pro-independence opposition camp in Taiwan has denied that such a consensus has ever been made between the two sides.

Wu Poh-hsiung, a heavyweight from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), said at the forum that the "1992 Consensus" is a "historical fact" and a "wise arrangement" that must be accepted.

The consensus embodies the essence of having both sides set aside disputes, the KMT honorary chairman said.

Cross-strait development may have "accidents" in the future, but both sides must deal with them with "friendly interactions" rather than "populist confrontations," he said.

Without mutual trust, talks about furthering economic and cultural ties between the two sides would be futile, Wu added.

Chang noted that MAC-conducted public opinion polls have shown that over 70 percent of the respondents support regular cross-strait negotiations, while 55 to 60 percent of them accept that such negotiations can be based on the "1992 Consensus."

KMT Vice Chairman John Chiang pointed out that the opposition camp in Taiwan remains skeptical of the "1992 Consensus." Taiwan must reach an internal consensus before mulling the future of cross-strait relations, he added.

He noted that biggest deadlock is the political side of cross-strait ties, and Taiwan lacks any of the three basic elements — needs of the nation, acceptance by the people and parliamentary monitoring — to support the start of political talks with Beijing.

Hsu Hsin-liang, a former chairman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, said dialogues have dispelled many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings between Taiwan and China, playing a crucial role in the fast advance in cross-strait ties.

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