Despite pledging not to begin political negotiations with China should he be re-elected, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was quoted in a leaked WikiLeaks cable released on Tuesday as having told the US that there was pressure from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to engage in talks on political topics.
“Although economics were his [Ma’s] priority in cross-Strait discussions, PRC [People’s Republic of China] military activities might require him to engage the PRC on political topics as well,” said a cable issued by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) dated Dec. 16, 2009, which detailed a meeting between Ma and Admiral Timothy Keating, who retired from the US Navy that month, shortly after finishing a 31-month stint as commander of the US Pacific Command.
“Despite warming economic ties ... the PRC military posture across the Strait remained unchanged,” the cable quoted Ma as saying, adding that “PLA activities in recent months demonstrated that Taiwan may need to move beyond economic discussions into political discussions with the mainland.”
Ma did not elaborate what “PLA activities” he was referring to.
The president told Keating that Taipei had told Beijing it needed to remove the missiles across the Taiwan Strait before any such military or security issues could be discussed, the cable said.
Ma said that Taiwan would maintain good relations with the US and he asked for US support as he worked to reach “a peace agreement” with the PRC, it said.
The cable did not elaborate on what Ma meant by “a peace agreement.”
Keating told Ma that the US had observed China’s military improvements in both capability and capacity, the cable said.
“PRC computer network attacks, space developments, expanding reach of PRC submarines, and advanced PRC electronic warfare capabilities had given the United States cause to question the PRC’s true intentions,” the cable showed Keating as saying.
The US would like China to be more transparent and candid about its intentions. Every day, through the combined efforts of responsible nations in the region, Keating said, the PRC received the message that it should not consider the use of force.
Ma said Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) had told then-US president George W. Bush that he could accept “one China, different interpretations” as a basis for cross-strait discussions.
This gave both sides the flexibility to make progress on practical matters, Ma said.
The cable showed that Keating was told by Ma that there was mainstream consensus in Taiwan on the need to maintain the “status quo.”
Taiwanese identity did not mean an independent Taiwan, Ma was quoted as saying in the cable, adding that Taiwan had no need to declare independence.
“The Republic of China had been a sovereign state for 98 years and [it] would not declare independence again,” Ma said.
At the meeting, Ma also urged the US to continue to provide Taiwan with weapons.
Improved cross-strait ties bolster regional security, Ma said, but they need to be balanced with improvements in Taiwan’s relationship with the US. In that respect, Ma said that continued US arms sales were particularly important, the cable showed.
The cable said Ma hoped the US would support the procurement of submarines to replace Taiwan’s four aging submarines, of which two are more than 60 years old, but he did not mention acquiring the F-16C/D aircraft.