Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Cross-strait relations unaffected: Ma

STILL SAFE:The president said the latest US arms package sale would not hurt Taipei’s relations with Beijing and denied signaling an arms race with his bid for new F-16 jets

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporter

The US arms package for Taiwan announced by Washington last week did not jeopardize cross-strait relations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday, promising to maintain proper defensive capabilities while promoting peace across the Taiwan Strait.

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday notified the US Congress of a US$5.85 billion arms package to Taiwan that did not include the 66 F-16C/D aircraft Taipei desires and centered instead on upgrading its existing fleet of aging F-16A/Bs.

Beijing has condemned the latest arms package, but did not announce any retaliatory steps.

Ma defended the government’s moves in seeking the arms package and said the efforts did not signal any intention to engage in an arms race with China.

“The US arms sale to Taiwan did not jeopardize cross-strait relations and we did not put all our eggs in one basket. We are negotiating a free-trade agreement with Singapore and signed an investment pact with Japan,” Ma told a youth supporters’ group in Sindian District (新店), New Taipei City (新北市).

Ma said the US government has notified Congress of US$18.3 billion in weapons sales to Taiwan since he came into office in May 2008, referring to arms packages October 2008 and January last year, as well as the one announced last week.

“In the process of seeking US arms sales to Taiwan, we signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement [ECFA] with mainland China and our actions to maintain necessary defensive capabilities have not caused tensions across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

Ma, who is seeking a second term in January, also promised to carry out policies aimed at employment, education and housing issues that concern the nation’s younger generations.

Meeting Facebook supporters in Taipei later in the day, Ma promised to implement a typhoon-day policy next year.

The Ma administration last month proposed a paid “typhoon day” for people with children, so that in areas where a typhoon day is declared for schools, but not for offices, parents can have the day off to take care of their children.

The policy, which was proposed last month after some parents complained about the government’s failure to grant them paid leave when a typhoon day had been declared for schools, would be implemented next year, the president said, stressing the government’s effort to address public issues.

“This is not a big issue, but it would make people uncomfortable if we failed to address it ... We will carry out the policy while trying not to affect businesses,” Ma said.

He brushed aside concerns about the government’s attempt to please voters ahead of the presidential and legislative elections and insisted that his administration would not take public opinion for granted.

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