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Ma, Soong barely touch on merger issues

Chairmen committed to continued collaboration between parties

Ma, Soong barely touch on merger issues

The long-anticipated meeting of opposition party heads Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Kuomintang and James Soong (宋楚瑜) of the People First Party last night reached a consensus on continued collaboration between the two parties on party policies, legislative alliances, and future elections.

But little progress was said to have been made on the issue of the two parties merging, as the two party chairmen only touched lightly on the matter according to the secretary-generals of both parties.

They indicated that because a merger entailed many legal questions that could not be resolved within a night, Ma and Soong in the end agreed to carry on the collaboration approach that they have implemented for the past year since the legislator elections.

KMT Secretary-General Chan Chun-bou remarked that the two chairmen hoped to improve Taiwan's economical troubles by actively promoting the "three direct links" across the Taiwan Strait, and by fighting for an admission into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Chairman Ma specifically requested Chairman Soong to collect ideas from ASEAN diplomats at the conference he will attend on Wednesday," said Chan.

Soong had announced prior to his meeting with Ma that he would be departing for Malaysia tomorrow to attend an international peace summit, reportedly held by ASEAN.

"The two chairmen have appointed the secretaries of both parties to come up with a plan that would allow the pan-blue majority to continue in future elections," said Chan, without indicating when the plan would be made.

"The pan-blue legislature will continue to strive for the benefit of all of Taiwan's people," said PFP Secretary-General Chin Ching-sheng (秦金生), "by maintaining a determined stance that Taiwan has enough weapons to defend itself and therefore will keep vetoing the arms procurement package, and probe into the President's so-called assassination attempt of March 19, 2000."

Chin also denied earlier speculation that Soong would return to the KMT, saying that as a party chairman, Soong would not abandon his party members for his own personal interests, which Chin said were not discussed in the meeting.

Both chairmen separately stressed before yesterday's encounter that they would not discuss matters regarding their personal interests. There had been speculation that should the two parties end up merging, the KMT would covertly designate Soong as its candidate for the Taipei City mayoral election next year.

The meeting took place at the Armed Forces National Hero House Taipei yesterday evening and lasted nearly four hours.

Prior to their private talk, the two chairmen spoke briefly to local media.

Soong, who was prompted by Ma to comment first, initially congratulated Ma on the victory of the KMT in the December 3 three-in-one elections.

"(This) success suggests the Taiwanese people have great expectations for the KMT, under Ma's leadership," praised Soong.

Soong added that the outcome on December 3 demonstrated the dissatisfaction and loss of confidence of the Taiwanese people in President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the governing Democratic Progressive Party, which Soong described as being "entrenched in surfacing scandals islandwide."

Changing the subject, Soong expressed his hopes that the meeting with Ma would bring forth development in three aspects, all related closely to pan-blue alliance.

"Regarding party policies, both the KMT and the PFP would endeavor to reflect the true opinion of the Taiwanese people, thus facilitating a guiding principle that will be known as 'the Taiwan way,'" said Soong.

He then stressed that the pan-blue alliance in the Legislature should be continued.

Third, Soong anticipated that the pan-blue alliance should improve recruiting activities for new talent to play a part in future major elections, "such as the big one next year."

"In doing so, not only would the KMT and the PFP achieve a higher degree of harmony, but the DPP would have no chance of benefiting effortlessly from internal disagreements," Soong said.

Before handing over the microphone to Ma, Soong said his goal in the international peace summit in Malaysia was "to not let Taiwan become marginalized in the wake of possible ASEAN additions of China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea."

Ma initially acknowledged the triumphs that the alliance had achieved and hoped it would go further. "The possibility of merging the two parties is also anticipated."

However, it was noted that Soong did not mention any language related to "merging" in his remarks.