The possibility of two pandas coming to Taiwan from China is low because Taiwan's national sovereignty cannot be compromised, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday.
Fearing that Taiwan will be downgraded to a province of China as China has refused to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, Hsieh said the government cannot afford to ignore the implications related to accepting the two pandas. He added that this is the key hurdle to the panda issue, as the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora requires exports of endangered animals to be certified by the exporting and importing countries.
Beijing has said that the convention has no bearing on the matter as the proposed give-and-take is "domestic" in nature. China has offered to give Taiwan a pair of pandas since early May last year when then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) made a landmark visit across the Strait.
The premier further noted that Taiwan's weather is not suitable for breeding and raising pandas, which prefer to live in cold and wet mountainous areas.
Hsieh said he saw no need for rival parties to bicker over the issue and asserted that Taiwan will hold unto rules here and abroad in dealing with the pair of pandas.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Kau (高英茂) pointed out that government agencies have been working on a position paper that will be sent to outposts overseas to explain Taiwan's stance on the issue to their host countries.
Kau made the remarks while fielding questions from ruling Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) during a legislative hearing. Hsiao called on the foreign ministry to come up with countermeasures, noting that China has been using the pandas to advance its unification agenda.
Kau agreed it is necessary for the government to step up the pace of drawing up the position paper and give a clear explanation to the international community.
"The panda issue has created misunderstanding and confusion at home and overseas as to why Taiwan has hesitated to accept the gifts," Kau said. To redress that, government agencies have been preparing a position paper that will explain Taiwan's attitude from the professional, legal and wildlife conservation aspects.
According to the vice minister, his agency, the Council of Agriculture and the Mainland Affairs Council are jointly drawing the paper with an end to de-politicize the issue.
China announced last Friday that it had selected two pandas to be sent to Taiwan as a gift and that they are fully prepared to deliver the gift as soon as Taiwan authorities are ready. Kau said Beijing's handling of the pandas is consistent with its strategy to make Taiwan's government irrelevant in cross-strait interactions.