Mon, Mar 24, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ma says he will focus on economic ties

TALKING THE TALK The president-elect said he would restore the role of the Straits Exchange Foundation as a negotiator with Beijing, but would not visit China himself

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) pledged yesterday to seek closer economic ties with China and resuscitate the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) as a communication channel on cross-strait issues.

Speaking in English, Ma told a news conference at the Taipei Youth Center that he would prioritize closer economic relations after his inauguration on May 20, followed by confidence-building measures leading to an eventual peace agreement with Beijing.

He said the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), would resume their roles as negotiators on behalf of the two governments, adding that the KMT would have limited dialogue with the Chinese Communist Party under his administration.

"Dialogue with the Mainland will shift from party-to-party contacts to more governmental negotiations ... We hope we can [handle cross-strait issues] through the two semi-official bodies," Ma said.

In October 1992, representatives of the SEF and ARATS met in Hong Kong for a preparatory meeting that led to historic talks between then SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and ARATS Chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) in Singapore in 1993.

SEF-ARATS dialogue broke down under President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration as Beijing refused to negotiate with the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

While promising to resume dialogue with China, the president-elect acknowledged the two sides' differences on the sovereignty issue, and promised to insist on "Taiwan-centric" principles.

"China remains the biggest threat to Taiwan's security, but [it is] also an opportunity in [terms of the] economy. I will seek to maximize the opportunity and minimize the threat," he said.

Ma said he would return to the negotiating table under the so-called "1992 consensus," and establish "confidence-building measures" to exclude the possibility of accidental confrontations between Taiwan and China before the signing of a peace agreement.

Ma stressed Taiwan's status as a "sovereign nation," and urged Chinese leaders not to compare Taiwan with Tibet.

"Taiwan is not Hong Kong, and Taiwan is not Tibet either. Taiwan [has been] a sovereign nation for many years. When they [China] talk about Tibet, they should not talk about Taiwan," Ma said.

"We elect our own president and parliament. It's very important for Beijing leaders to keep in mind that Taiwan is different ... China should stop political suppression in Tibet and we hope the situation in Tibet will be restored to normal as soon as possible," he said.

Ma reiterated that he would not rule out a boycott of the Beijing Olympics if the situation in Tibet deteriorated and said he welcomed Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit the nation after his inauguration.

"He is a moderate and persuasive person, and a lovable Tibetan leader. He will be more than welcome to visit Taiwan," Ma said.

He also reiterated that he had no immediate plan to visit China and said handling substantive issues such as economic ties would be more meaningful than "ceremonial" meetings between national leaders.

He thanked US President George W. Bush for his congratulatory message and vowed to play the role of a responsible stakeholder and a peacemaker in the region.

Also see: Presidential election 2008: Taiwan NewsAlso see: Post-Election 2008: Editorials

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