Wed, Feb 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT chairman urges Beijing to embrace democracy

AGENCIES , LONDON AND TAIPEI

China should embrace democracy before Taiwan considers unification, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Monday in London.

"We do not rule out the option of eventual reunification between Taiwan and mainland China if the overall conditions across the Taiwan Strait are ripe," Ma said.

"The conditions are ripe when mainland China develops to a stage where its political democracy, economic prosperity and social well-being are congruent with those of Taiwan," he said.

Ma was speaking to a mostly Chinese and Taiwanese audience at the London School of Economics.

Ma said there was no timetable for unification, and that Taiwan would prefer to maintain the "status quo" until the timing and conditions were favorable.

When asked if democracy in China was viable, Ma said he believed it would eventually embrace an elected government.

"They have to find their own way to democracy. No one can tell them to do it," Ma said.

"Things will take care of themselves if the current economic development continues," he said.

Trade between the countries is worth US$71 billion, and an end to that relationship could lead to a US$42 billion trade deficit for Taiwan, Ma said.

But before Taiwan would consider unification with China, any plan must be given approval through a vote, he said.

He also reiterated his concern over China's military position, a "security threat" he spoke about last week when he suggested that the weapons aimed at Taiwan should be removed.

"Mainland China constitutes a security threat to Taiwan, with all the missiles, all the military build-up," he said.

"But the problem is: Are we going to build our armaments as well, or try and find some other ways to ... maximize our power to achieve peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait?" he said.

Ma also said the KMT would seek to resume talks with China, stalled since 1999, if it won back the presidency.

"The intermediate goal, though, is for both sides to negotiate and put into effect a viable peace agreement that can serve as a framework guiding cross-strait interactions in decades ahead," he said.

The KMT chairman said his party supported the political status quo and had no timetable for unification with China.

"Since Taiwan has become a full-fledged democracy, reunification with mainland China cannot proceed without the consent of Taiwanese people," Ma said.

"Therefore, as of now, there is no timetable for reunification; nor is there any urgency for such a move on either side of the Taiwan Strait," he said.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has said that Ma's unification stance prompted him to order a review of 15-year-old unification guidelines in a bid to shake Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Chen said last month that it was time to consider scrapping the National Unification Council and the National Unification Guidelines. A decision on the matter is expected soon.

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