Taiwan should learn from Singapore and connect with the world with pragmatism and openness, as such an attitude would reduce the danger of war in the Taiwan Strait, president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.
“Singapore’s national strategy ‘CORE’ — connectivity, openness, reliability and entrepreneurship — successfully connected the country with the world, and that’s the path Taiwan must follow,” Ma said while addressing an annual convention of the International Relations Institute of the ROC in Taipei.
“We should connect with the world with soft power, while maintaining national security and dignity. The more open we are, the less the country will be at risk of war,” he said.
Ma said his administration would prioritize negotiations with China on economic and cultural exchanges, a peace agreement and Taiwan’s international space as part of its efforts to develop the nation’s international relations.
“Diplomacy is the art of the possible ... The possibility of advancing Taiwan’s diplomatic relations is limited, but we may be able to break new ground by combining diplomacy with cross-strait relations,” he said.
“We will negotiate with China about Taiwan’s international space,” Ma said, adding that only when Taiwan cooperates with the international community would the interests of its people be safeguarded.
“Taiwan will have a very different international presence if its diplomacy can be associated with cross-strait [policies],” he said. “Taiwan has the wisdom, vitality and determination to create a healthier international environment for the country.”
Ma also spoke on the importance of government integrity and vowed to lead a clean government after assuming office on May 20.
Ma voiced concern on the impact of the recent Papua New Guinea (PNG) aid scandal on Taiwan’s reputation.
The high-profile scandal first came to light on May 1 when it was disclosed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was trying to recover US$30 million it had remitted to two intermediaries to help broker a diplomatic deal with Papua New Guinea.
One of the middlemen, Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), had gone missing, as had the money.
Vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), minister of foreign affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and deputy minister of national defense Ko Chen-heng (柯承亨) resigned on Tuesday to take responsibility for the scandal..
“I feel deeply concerned after reading an article in the International Herald Tribute, which described the recent PNG aid scandal as checkbook or cash diplomacy,” he said. “Taiwan has shown its strength in the economic and other fields, but it has also become the center of attention and ridiculed by other countries in the field of diplomacy.”
Commenting on the scandal for the first time, Ma vowed to adopt a pragmatic and open approach in developing diplomatic ties. He also promised to be flexible in pursuing membership in the WHO and other international organizations, while safeguard the nation’s dignity.
Ma said that his administration would seek to sign free-trade agreements with Singapore, the US and Japan, as well as to join the ASEAN to facilitate economic cooperation.
Additional reporting by CNA