China sends representatives to attend Taiwan negotiator’s funeral

TAIPEI, Feb. 1 Kyodo

A Chinese delegation arrived in Taipei on Tuesday to attend the funeral of Koo Chen-fu, who was Taiwan’s top negotiator with China before he died last month at the age of 87.

Sun Yafu, vice president of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and concurrently assistant director of the governing State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, arrived in Taipei along with the association’s Secretary General Li Yafei.

They are here as representatives of the association’s chairman Wang Daohan, who was Koo’s Beijing counterpart, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

Beijing has downplayed the visit, stressing that it is personal and does not involve any political contact with the self-ruled island, which China considers to be an inseparable part of its territory that should be reunited, by force if necessary.

Koo had served since 1991 as chairman of Taiwan’s quasi-official Strait Exchange Foundation, which spearheaded the delicate task of direct and unofficial talks with China.

In 1993, Koo and Wang shelved politically controversial issues and held a meeting in Singapore, in what marked an unprecedented breakthrough in cross-strait relations.

The Singapore meeting led to several rounds of negotiations, including the Shanghai meeting in October 1998 in which Koo met with then Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

However, bilateral dialogue was suspended in mid-1999, when then Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui enraged China by defining cross-strait ties as a ”special state-to-state” relationship.

The two mainland representatives plan to call on Koo’s family and then return home Wednesday, the Mainland Affairs Council said.

It did not specify whether Sun and Li will take part in a memorial ceremony slated for Wednesday morning, in which Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is scheduled to deliver a speech.

On the plane bound for Taipei via Hong Kong from Shanghai, Sun, who had been to Taipei for talks 11 years ago, told Taiwan media that the trip is a courtesy response to the Koo family’s invitation and that he is glad to be able to visit Taiwan again.

”The trip is made not only to pay tribute to Koo but to express respect for the Taiwan compatriots,” he told TVBS cable news.

Earlier, Wang expressed condolences over Koo’s death and honored his contribution to the development of cross-strait relations.

He told China’s official Xinhua News Agency that he ”cherished the memories of the old friend” but unfortunately is unable to go by himself due to his weak health.

Koo, a Japan-educated business tycoon who established the Koo business group, died of cancer on Jan. 3. Despite being one of Taiwan’s most influential political figures, he never held public office. He was relied heavily upon by the previous Nationalist government in cross-strait affairs.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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