Wed, Jul 11, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Summit and cross-strait relations

By LyeLiang-fook 黎良福

Much attention has swirled around the spate of leaders’ summits and meetings related to the Korean Peninsula, particularly the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12. The key topic hogging the limelight has been the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

However, what is less discussed has been the implications of the summit on cross-strait relations.

The summit was unprecedented, as it brought the leaders of the US and North Korea, still technically at war, together for the first time. This has revived suggestions in Taiwan on the possibility of a similar meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in the interest of pursuing peace and stability in cross-strait relations.

Taiwan viewed the summit in the context of two parties willing to set aside their past differences and prejudices to come together for talks to promote regional peace and stability. A day after the summit, at a regular meeting of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to discuss its strategic impact, Tsai was reported to have strongly affirmed that the US and North Korea were willing to set aside their past confrontation, pursue peaceful and rational dialogue, and make joint efforts to resolve tensions on the peninsula and in East Asia.

Tsai also reportedly said that the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other departments would continue to maintain close contact with nations of similar political philosophies in the region and jointly monitor the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula to ensure that Taiwan’s interests are safeguarded in the event of any situational changes.

The government would also work to secure more opportunities to collaborate with the international community to enable Taiwan to play a more important role in promoting regional peace, stability and prosperity, she added.

From the above remarks attributed to Tsai, what was left unsaid or implied is just as important as what was said. For instance, when Tsai mentioned that the US and North Korea were willing to set aside their past confrontation, she was hinting that Taiwan and China should do likewise and pursue talks in the interest of cross-strait peace and stability.

Several weeks ago, in the aftermath of the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim in April, Tsai was much more explicit when she said that she was willing to engage in substantive dialogue with Xi. She further urged China to adopt a new and different thinking on its relations with Taiwan.

What Tsai was saying was that she would like China to refrain from setting any preconditions for talks, especially its insistence that she recognizes the so-called “1992 consensus” that there is only “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

For Tsai, recognizing the “1992 consensus” would be politically costly for her and her party. Hence, Tsai has so far only said that she respected the historical fact that in 1992 there was a certain common understanding reached, but this falls short of China’s expectations.

Separately, a senior member of a Taiwanese think tank closely affiliated to the DPP posited that developments on the world stage provided an opportune moment for a Tsai-Xi meeting. This is because there was a possibility that the Trump administration, which is more supportive of Taiwan, could beat Xi to it or steal the political limelight by first proposing a Trump-Tsai meeting.

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