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President Lee Addresses National Unification Council

President Lee Teng-hui, in his capacity as chairman of the National Unification Council, today addressed the closing ceremony of the First Plenary of the Fifth National Unification Council, which was held at the Office of the President.

The full text of President Lee's speech is as follows:

In this First Plenary of the Fifth National Unification Council today, we have listened to the reports of the Mainland Affairs Council of the Executive Yuan and the National Security Bureau. Through extensive exchanges of views, we have acquired numerous valuable ideas. We will give them to the Executive Yuan for further study and implementation. Thank you for your recommendations.

It has been exactly one decade since our government decided, in 1987, to allow our citizens to visit their relatives in mainland China, raising the curtain for people-to-people exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Over this past decade, cross-strait relationship has evolved from estrangement to frequent exchanges. As it has helped to promote mutual understanding and to narrow the emotional gap between both sides of the Strait, this evolution carries great significance and profound influence.

In retrospect, we have taken the initiative to adopt a positive and pragmatic mainland policy in order to cultivate favorable cross-strait interactions. To lay a solid foundation for freedom, democracy, equal distribution of wealth and reunification of China in the future, we have declared the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion; have abolished the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion; have established the National Unification Council; have formulated the Guidelines for National Unification; have set up the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) to facilitate cross-strait consultations; and gradually have expanded exchanges in the areas of economy, trade, culture, technology and sports, etc. To date, there have been more than 10 million visits by our people to the mainland. The ratio of the investment by our business sector in the mainland to total out-bound investment has far surpassed that of major economic powers such as the United States and Japan. These facts prove that, based on openness and goodwill, our mainland policy has profoundly facilitated the normalization of cross-strait relations.

It cannot be denied, however, that a great deal of divergent and conflicting views, which cannot be resolved completely within a short period of time, have resulted from a half century of separation and hostility between the two sides of the Strait. Therefore, we maintain that both sides should engage in dialogue and consultations to nurture mutual confidence, enhance consensus and create a new stage for peace based on mutually beneficial cooperation. I have thus stated clearly, in my inaugural address last year, that the two sides of the Strait should "face up to the reality and engage in dialogue with profound sincerity and patience in order to resolve their differences." I have also earnestly called upon "the two sides of the Strait to deal honestly with the momentous issue of terminating the state of hostility." Furthermore, in a bid to create a new turning point for national reunification, I have expressed my willingness to embark upon a "journey of peace" to the mainland and to "meet with their top leaders for a direct exchange of views."

Regrettably, Peking authorities have been reluctant to face up to the reality of the existence and development of the Republic of China, have failed to abandon their inflexible ideology, and even have continuously harmed the goodwill and expectation of the people in the Taiwan area by their hegemonistic words and deeds. They have unilaterally suspended the consultations between our Straits Exchange Foundation and their Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) since June 1995. Furthermore, they have conducted military exercises and missile tests off the coast of Taiwan in March of last year, severely hindering the development of cross-strait relations.

Our commitment to democracy and freedom is the major reason for the Republic of China to stand tall and enjoy the respect of the international community. Peking has tried to impede our democratic development with its "smear campaign and saber rattling." However, these tactics will never succeed in frustrating our resolution to pursue freedom and democracy, but rather, will jeopardize the survival and development of all the Chinese people. As human civilization is evolving unmistakably toward freedom and democracy, neither suppression nor interference can deter this trend. We remain confident and determined to safeguard the survival of freedom and democracy for the well-being of our offspring.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to stress once again that "avoiding haste, exercising restraint, treading gingerly to attain long-lasting stability" should remain our guiding principle in managing cross-strait exchanges at the present stage. The ROC's existence and development on Taiwan is an evident and well-known fact in the world, and cannot be unilaterally negated by Peking authorities. We have therefore given top priority to our national development and the welfare of our people in formulating government policies, and will never recoil in the face of Peking's threats and intimidations. Last year the National Development Conference has stated clearly that the cross-strait relations should be built on "the survival and development of the Republic of China" and "the security and welfare of the 21 million people in Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu."

We maintain that both sides should resume dialogue in the earliest possible time, and should start with consultations between the SEF and the ARATS, which were unilaterally suspended by Peking in June 1995. Meanwhile, we believe that all cross-strait exchanges and consultations should not have any preconditions but should be based on respect for historical reality and the premise of securing the rights and interests of our people. With sincerity and goodwill, both sides can dissolve the suspicions between them, establish a flexible and rational order for exchange, and achieve consensus through consultations.

We have reiterated often that the essence of cross-strait problems is by no means, a feud for power among political parties, or a rivalry for territorial gains, but rather is a contest between different systems and ways of life. During the past 50 years, the government and people of the Republic of China, through various reforms, have created a prosperous economy and a full-fledged democracy. This has proven to the world that the Chinese are capable of prospering under a democratic system and are entitled to enjoying freedom. In line with the trend of history and the development of human civilization, these achievements, we believe, are precious assets that should be shared by all Chinese people and should be the major force propelling future prosperity and development for the Chinese people. We hope that Peking authorities will fully grasp this reality and stop impeding the advances of history with meaningless prejudices. We also hope that they will treat our successful developmental experience with an open mind so that both sides can compete fairly with each other in a rational and peaceful environment and create a win-win milestone in history.

In fact, the inhabitants of both sides of the Strait are Chinese and therefore should enjoy similar standards of living and equal opportunities for development. Today, we have built a full-fledged democracy, and we wish that Peking will join us soon in the ranks of modern civilized society by accelerating its political reform, cultivating democracy and rule of law, following international norms and enhancing international cooperation. At the same time, we hope that they will be pragmatic and forward-looking in developing cross-strait relations, commit themselves to peace, renounce the use of force and, through parallel participation of both sides in international organizations and activities, promote co-existence as well as mutual prosperity in the international community. By so doing, the gap between both sides of the Strait will be narrowed and conditions for national reunification will mature in the foreseeable future.

Ladies and Gentlemen: It is our unswerving policy to secure the existence and development of the Republic of China, to pursue peace and national reunification and to promote global cooperation and prosperity. Despite countless setbacks and numerous intimidation, we have never hesitated, nor surrendered. For, we trust that the firm commitment of our 21.6 million compatriots in Taiwan to seeking freedom and democracy will eventually gain the support of all Chinese people and the affirmation of all democratic countries in the world. We have accumulated abundant experience and confidence from the twists and turns in the development of cross-strait relations during the past decade. Looking to the future, we will continue building consensus among the people of Taiwan and pooling the might of our 1.2 billion compatriots in the mainland, so that both sides can strive, hand in hand, to create a bright future for a new China.

Today, through vigorous discussions, you have offered many valuable opinions for the next phase of our mainland policy. I believe that with a gradual implementation of these ideas, we will surely open a new horizon for cross-strait relations. I hope that our citizens will also come forward with suggestions to strengthen our mainland policy, so that we can stride more steadily into a new epoch of cross-strait relations.

In closing, I wish each of you good health and happiness. Thank you.

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