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President Lee: Nation-to-nation relations with China

Taipei, 10 July 1999

In an interview with German "Deutsche Welle" radio on Friday 9 July 1999, Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui has defined the island's relations with mainland China as "nation-to-nation relations."

The comments were the strongest Lee has made to refute China's claim that the island is a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland.

"Since we made our constitutional reforms in 1991," Lee told the Voice of Germany radio, "we have re-defined cross strait relations as nation-to-nation, or at least as special nation-to-nation relations" Lee said.

The comments were given in a presidential office statement issued Saturday. It also quoted Lee as saying Beijing "has totally ignored historical and legal facts" in claiming Taiwan a renegade province.

In making the statement, Lee has gone one step beyond Taiwan's former claim that the two sides are equal political entities that should recognize each other's jurisdiction in the areas they control.

Lee's comments are viewed as an attempt to strengthen Taiwan's negotiation stance ahead of a visit to the island by China's top negotiator with Taiwan, Wang Daohan. Taiwan has said it prefers to restart negotiations with China on mundane issues such as fishing disputes to help build up the mutual trust needed for political talks at a later stage. But it is also prepared to discuss the "one China policy". Wang is expected to bring up during his visit in either September or October.

Taiwan's ruling Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after being driven out of China by Mao Tse-tung's communists. Under the repressive rule of President Chiang Kai-shek and his successor, the Nationalist claimed that they were China's legitimate government and the communists were usurpers.

However, after the DPP-initiated democratization in the 1980s and early 1990s, Taiwan dropped the claim, although to this day the ruling Kuomintang continues to cling to the outdated "unification" concept.