1999 / 4月
Marlene Chen /tr. by Christopher MacDonald
Advocating "Track Two" peace talks across the Taiwan Strait, a delegation led by former US Secretary of Defense William Perry arrived in Taiwan on March 7, after a one-week trip to the mainland.
Shuttling between the mainland and Taiwan in this way, Perry hopes, by means of Track Two, to facilitate the cross-strait peace process and also safeguard US interests in East Asia. With the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Wang Daohan due to visit Taiwan later this year, much attention has been given to Track Two, and how it might affect cross-strait relations.
Now a professor at Stanford University, William Perry arrived in Taiwan at the head of a delegation that included former US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. Before coming to Taiwan, the group met with Wang Daohan in Hangzhou for a meeting on bilateral security issues, discussing the current state of military exchanges between the mainland and the US, and sensitive matters such as the "Theater Missile Defense" (TMD) system and the cross-strait situation.
Perry also held talks with President Jiang Zemin, who reiterated his hope that the US would abide scrupulously by the principles of the three Washington-Beijing communiques and the recent joint declaration, and voiced concern about the inclusion of Taiwan under TMD. However, Jiang responded positively to the use by the US of non-official channels to strengthen dialogue and improve understanding.
In Taiwan, Perry met with top officials including President Lee Teng-hui, Foreign Minister Jason Hu and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Su Chi, expressing his views on cross-strait peace and putting forward some "constructive proposals." President Lee meanwhile, re-emphasized that Taiwan will not, and does not need to declare independence, and that its continuing pursuit of peace, democracy and freedom is consistent with the objectives of the world's democratic nations.
On his return to the US, having met with the top leadership on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Perry indicated that both governments were very willing to accept his proposals, and that Taiwan's government strongly supported his efforts. However, he also described Lee Teng-hui as having reservations about the steps being taken for cross-strait dialogue, though still being positive overall.
The Presidential Office promptly issued a statement pointing out that Lee does not support "Track Two," that normal channels for communication are already in place, and that cross-strait issues should be dealt with through existing channels.
MAC Chairman Su Chi emphasized that what he called "Track One" is the only legally mandated channel, unlike Track Two, which is not accountable before the Legislative Yuan, and added that while Taiwan respects Perry's "Track Two," it is a channel with an academic, referential nature, and cannot take the place of Track One.
Nevertheless, Taiwan still regards Track Two as filling an important function. Foreign Minister Jason Hu notes that Perry is an important leader of opinion in the US, and currently represents his country in negotiations with North Korea. If he had heard only the mainland's version of events during his recent trip, some misreading of the situation would have been unavoidable, which is why Taiwan welcomed his visit and proposed that the National Committee on US-China Relations arrange for him to return to Taiwan for a discussion of security issues similar to the recent meeting in Hangzhou.
Perry himself clarifies that he has no wish to participate in the official, "Track One" dialogue between the two sides. Track Two, he explains, isn't mandated for consultations. Its main use is to provide a wider means of communication.
National Chiao Tung University professor Wei Yung, a former KMT legislator, refers to Su Qin and Zhang Yi, famous strategists during the Warring States period, as an example of track-two-type contacts, and says that think-tanks, PR companies, academics and retired officials can all play a similar role today. Given the way that the foreign affairs policy-making process in the US draws on a wide range of opinions, Perry's report after this trip is bound to prove influential.
While in Taiwan, Perry also met opposition star Chen Shui-bian, and conveyed the US position that it does not support Taiwan independence. In Chen's view, any plan that helps maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait and the Western Pacific is something that he welcomes. Chen emphasized that as a responsible political party, the DPP will deal with the issue of Taiwan's future in a prudent manner, and he also agreed with Perry that the two sides need to lower tension while boosting exchanges in the areas of culture, trade and technology.
In spite of positive attitudes all round regarding the contribution made by Track Two, Kuo Cheng-liang, associate professor in politics at Soochow University, believes that Beijing's diplomatic blockade of Taiwan, and the military threat that it poses against the island, have intensified rather than eased, and this has already put Track Two diplomacy under a big strain.
The TMD issue provides the clearest example of this. Over in the US, the Defense Authorization Bill passed last year by the House of Representatives, requires the US government to include Taiwan under TMD. Beijing, on the other hand, is sharply against Taiwan's inclusion under TMD, and the mainland's foreign minister has directly accused Taiwan of creating an arms race by "relying on foreigners for self-protection." At the same time, debate has erupted within Taiwan itself as to whether or not we should join TMD, with questions raised about the massive costs of the plan and whether or not it will bring substantive security benefits for the Taiwan Strait. Of course, if Beijing were to drop its threat to use force against Taiwan, TMD wouldn't necessarily be needed, while if the intimidation continues, all tracks of dialogue are in vain anyway.
At the same time as attention was turned to "tracks two, three..." and so on, further contact was taking place through the formal channel of communication authorized by both governments-namely between the SEF (Straits Exchange Foundation) and ARATS. On March 17, ARATS deputy secretary-general Li Yafei brought a delegation to Taiwan and held consultations with SEF deputy secretary-general Jan Jyh-horng, on the subject of Wang Daohan's visit to Taiwan later this year.
A preliminary decision was made that Wang should be able to visit this Autumn, when he will become the highest-level official from the mainland to make an authorized visit to Taiwan in the last half century. In his meeting with William Perry, President Lee said that time permitting, he would be willing to personally show Wang Daohan around Taiwan when he visits this year. We will have to wait for the outcome of that visit to know how effectively progress is being made at present through the Track One channel.
"You start!" MAC Chairman Su Chi in conversation with William Perry: their views on cross-strait issues differed. (photo by Han Tung-ching)