Tue, Feb 14, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Ma must back up his words

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Sunday that he accepts the position of refusing to enter into dialogue with China until Beijing removes its missiles targeting Taiwan. Though he appeared to backtrack on that remark yesterday, it still represents a departure for Ma. It is also smarter, and makes more sense, than previous statements about the need to consult with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) regarding the abolition of the National Unification Council, or his affirmation of the KMT's ultimate goal of unification.

There are many variables governing the direction in which cross-strait relations could develop, and political leaders such as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) or Ma must choose their words carefully when approaching the subject. If they say the wrong thing now, they may be forced to eat their words in the future, or go back on their promises.

While campaigning Chen has often proclaimed that Taiwan and China are two countries, one on each side of the Taiwan Strait, only to return to re-iterating that he will not declare independence while president. He reportedly even asked People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), known for his staunch advocacy of unification, to pass on a message to Hu during his visit to China last year. Given such inconsistency, it is little wonder that Chen's trustworthiness has been questioned and his popularity has fallen.

As a likely candidate for the presidency in 2008, Ma should take Chen's failures to keep his promises as a lesson to speak and act cautiously. He should not let power or the cheers of the people mislead him into making irresponsible statements.

In the final two years of the Chen administration, the people will certainly examine Ma's words and deeds with care. They will evaluate him by the way he handles issues such as the KMT's stolen assets, the retirement of party officials, the Taipei City Government's achievements and his stance on cross-strait affairs, as well as his ability to resist outside pressure on this issue.

Ma still has some troubling ideas. For example, he continues to push for opening Taipei's Songshan Airport to direct cross-strait flights, and has said that he will fully implement direct links within two years of being elected president. He recently said he would not reject allowing people from China to join the KMT.

These ideas have been vociferously attacked by the pan-green camp, which accuses Ma of ignoring national security issues. His statements and comments have been as inconsistent as those emanating from the Presidential Office.

The phrase "You can go retake the mainland, we will remain behind to protect Taiwan" has long had currency for those uninterested in the KMT's designs. It underlines the lack of interest that many Taiwanese feel in becoming involved in China's affairs. Ma, in outlining his cross-strait strategy, should bear this in mind so as not to create more problems by meddling in China's domestic affairs.

Ma should be applauded for his acceptance of the position that negotiations are impossible until China removes its missiles. This is the first step toward a cross-strait policy that upholds Taiwan's dignity. It is a clear and reasonable position. Naturally, the removal of the missiles, in and of itself, will not resolve the cross-strait issue, but it will greatly ameliorate the atmosphere in which negotiations can take place between the two governments. Let's hope this is not just more of Ma's political posturing.

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