Fri, Mar 24, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ma sells `peace' with China to the US

`1992 CONSENSUS' IS BACK Ma Ying-jeou's political pitch drew great interest in Washington, but a DPP official who is also visiting the city questioned its feasibility

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, second left, meets American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Managing Director Barbara Schrage, left, and former AIT directors David Dean, second right, and David Laux during a visit to AIT's Washington office yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Sounding very much like a presidential candidate seeking US approval, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to Washington on Wednesday pledging to seek a long-term peace agreement with China and to resume the early-1990s Beijing-Taipei talks in Hong Kong if his party regains control of the presidency in 2008.

But his proposals came under immediate fire from a leading Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) official also visiting Washington who said they were unfeasible.

Ma advanced his proposals as part of a five-point program on cross-strait relations he outlined in a speech to the conservative Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

Shortly after his address, Ma met with a number of senior US officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and National Security Council China specialist, Dennis Wilder, according to sources. But the meeting, as is usual under US conventions governing Taiwan relations, was not announced or confirmed by either side.

Ma's remarks, his first public appearance in his two-day stopover in the capital, drew a standing-room-only crowd of academics, policy pundits and China-watchers who wanted a glimpse of the man who has, in less than a year, become a contender for the next president of Taiwan.

If the KMT won the presidency, Ma said, his program would seek to resume the Hong Kong talks on the basis of the so-called "1992 consensus" in which, he said, the question of Taiwanese sovereignty would be only one point, not the main one, on the agenda.

KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) recently admitted that the "1992 consensus" was a fabrication that he invented.

It was not immediately clear why Ma was continuing to use the expression.

In addition, he would seek an accord that would "formally terminate the state of hostility across the Taiwan Strait and let the two sides get along with each other in peace" for a period of 30 to 50 years.

Other points in his program would be to "normalize economic relations" with Beijing and seek acceptance of greater Taiwanese participation in international affairs, and greater cross-strait cultural and educational exchanges.

In addition, Ma expressed his support for the "status quo."

"Taiwan should not pursue permanent separation from China, but also Taiwan should not pursue immediate unification with the mainland," he said. "So the best policy for Taiwan to pursue is to maintain the status quo."

"If we can maintain the status quo and improve relations with the mainland, we could stabilize the situation in East Asia, and the US security role would be made easier and more stable," he said.

In response to Ma's speech, DPP Chinese Affairs director Lai I-Chung (賴怡忠) warned the proposals could sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty. Lai wondered how Ma's proposals would work, considering Beijing's hostile views toward the nation.

If China accepts Ma's proposals, it would demand that Taiwan accept the "one China" principle, Lai said.

"And will he have to sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty in order to reach a peace agreement," Lai told the Taipei Times and its Chinese-language sister newspaper, the Liberty Times.

"We believe that this is going to be rejected by the Taiwanese people," Lai said.

Lai also rejected an assertion that Ma has made during his trip to the US, namely that there is "one China" -- the Republic of China.

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