MAC denies stalling talks on new mainland envoy offices

TAIPEI - Taiwan has always been actively negotiating with China to set up representative offices in each other's territory, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has said, denying claims from a Beijing official that Taipei was stalling talks.

While the idea of establishing representative offices was first proposed by China, Taiwan has since been active in pushing for cross-strait negotiations on related issues, said the MAC, Taiwan's top cross-strait agency, in a statement.

The MAC's remarks were in response to a local media report earlier in the day that Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, was blaming Taiwan for stalled negotiations on setting up the representative offices.

"It's Taiwan's problem," Zhang was quoted as saying in the United Daily News report. "We don't understand why Taiwanese people are afraid of being eaten by us."

Denying Zhang's claims, the MAC said that since January 2013, both sides of the Taiwan Strait have held eight rounds of negotiations. The January 2013 meeting marked the first negotiations on establishing representative offices in each other's territory, with the government in Taipei to be represented in China by its semi-official negotiating agency, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing to be represented by the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

Both sides have exchanged views on topics such as the proposed functions of the representative offices, protection of staff and a code of conduct, but further negotiations are still needed because of the complexity of the issues, the MAC explained.

The Taiwan government has also been mulling measures in response to China's concerns over issues relating to office security, the MAC said.

Citing recent polls, the MAC said that about 70 per cent of Taiwanese people support the idea of representative offices. Therefore, there is no such thing that "Taiwanese people fear being eaten by China," it said.

The MAC expressed hope that both sides will maintain a positive attitude on setting up representative offices and continue to push for them.