President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said his government would “cautiously consider” whether the nation should sign a peace agreement with China within the next decade, but added that such a move would require strong domestic backing.
“We are now thinking of cautiously considering whether we should sign a cross-strait peace agreement within the next decade, as the two sides’ relations are gradually improving,” Ma said during a press conference at the Presidential Office where he presented the latest in a series of plans for his “golden decade” blueprint for the country’s development over the next 10 years.
However, Ma, who is running for re-election in the Jan. 14 presidential election, said his administration would only do so if it had strong domestic support and if such a pact met the needs of the country. Any pact would have to be supervised by the legislature, he added.
When asked by reporters to elaborate on the specifics, such as content, preparation and a timetable, Ma first said that signing a peace agreement with China was not a priority at present, before adding that it did not feel right to present a 10-year plan that omitted any mention of a pact because that might imply Taipei would not want to sign a peace agreement in the next 10 years.
He later said the issue of an agreement with China was a public policy open to discussion and all opinions would be considered. The pact would be signed only if it were beneficial to Taiwanese, he added.
Ma did not make a mention of his previous remarks that called on Beijing to remove its missiles aimed at Taiwan as the precondition for negotiations on a cross-strait peace treaty.
Ma also said the two sides should set up representative offices in each other’s territories to deal with continuing cross-strait talks, which so far have concentrated on economic ties.
While highlighting continued reconciliation with Beijing, Ma said he would bolster Taiwan’s defenses against a possible Chinese attack.
“We need to demonstrate our resolution to defend ourselves so the public will feel confident enough to allow the government to continue reinforcing mainland ties,” Ma said.
He added that the peace initiative would not come at the expense of existing ties with the US and Japan, Taiwan’s key strategic partners.
Ma also proposed that Taiwan and China move toward a new level of cooperation on global issues, such as food safety, public health, humanitarian aid, green energy and climate change, according to a statement from the Presidential Office.
Ma vowed to continue to promote institutionalized talks between the two sides. Such talks began after Ma took office in 2008.
Ma faces a re-election challenge from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Polls indicate a close race.
In response, DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said under Ma’s so-called “1992 consensus” and “one China” prerequisites, peace talks would be suspected of changing the cross-strait “status quo,” which could start steering Taiwan toward unification.
“The Taiwanese people did not give President Ma the right and authority to initiate talks that would begin political negotiations between the [Taiwan] Strait and eventual unification,” Chen said.