Thu, May 21, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese should decide pace of cross-strait ties: Ma

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday the development of cross-strait relations should be decided by Taiwanese, but it was premature to make a decision now.

“Whether what’s going to be the future between Taiwan and the mainland should be decided, on our part, by the people of Taiwan, maybe by future generations,” Ma said in English during a press conference with foreign correspondents to mark his first year in office.

“I don’t think conditions are ripe for making a decision now,” he said.

Ma walked down from the podium six times to listen to reporters’ questions more clearly.

He ruled out holding a referendum on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) his administration wants to sign with Beijing, saying only political issues require a popular vote.

“Usually, issues of economic nature will not require a referendum,” he said. “I think unless we touch upon the issue of either unification or independence, otherwise we don’t need a referendum for that purpose.”

It wasn’t necessary to hold a referendum on economic issues because polls could gauge public opinion as effectively if they were conducted scientifically and by more than one agency, he said.

Ma said he had made it clear that during his term of office, whether it was four years or eight, he would not engage in any talks with China on unification, nor would he pursue de jure independence for Taiwan, or use force to resolve cross-strait disputes.

Beijing must remove or dismantle its missiles targeted at Taiwan if both sides are to negotiate a peace agreement or military confidence building mechanism, he said.

His goal was to establish peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait, Ma said, and his policies were based on the concept of “three nos”: no unification, no independence and no use of force.

Although China’s leaders were still communist and Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan was basically the same, China’s strategy toward Taiwan has changed, emphasizing preventing formal independence instead of unification, he said.

“They have demonstrated a very clear sophistication and flexibility in their policy,” he added. “We certainly appreciate their new pragmatism, their new sophistication.”

Beijing has also responded to his initiatives, such as direct cross-strait flights and an economic pact, Ma said, adding that his China strategy has changed since he took office.

“In one year, we’ve transformed the Taiwan Strait from a dangerous flash point to a conduit for peace and prosperity,” he said.

It will take wisdom, perseverance and pragmatism for both sides to reach a consensus and the country must heed all possible pitfalls along the way, he said.

Ma, who was vocal about the Tiananmen Massacre before becoming president, sidestepped a question about the incident, saying he tried to be consistent on different issues.

“That is why I pay a lot of attention to my campaign promises, trying not to go back on any of these,” he said. “It’s very tough because situations do change, but I try to maintain consistence and this is the reason why people trust me. They understand that if I say something I will abide by it. I think this is a very important essence of a political figure.”

He said he would issue a statement on June 4 to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

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