Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Ma says cross-strait peace accord is around the corner

JUST IN CASE? The KMT presidential candidate said the Chinese leadership was ready to talk peace with Taiwan, but added that he would seek to increase the defense budget

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA AND AFP, TOKYO

Demonstrators protest against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou outside his last press conference in Tokyo yesterday prior to departing Japan.

PHOTO: CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday he was confident that Taiwan would be able to sign a peace accord with China, adding that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) had expressed a similar opinion.

When asked by a Japanese reporter which channel would be used to communicate with China, Ma said that the technical details could be worked out later. The point, he said, was that leaders from both sides are willing to act.

"It is important that leaders of both sides are willing to improve the relationship," Ma said.

Ma said, however, that he has no plans to visit China.

He also said that although Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), founding chairman of Taiwan's intermediary body, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and Koo's Beijing counterpart, Wang Daohan (汪道涵), founding chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), have both passed away, there are people able to serve as their successors.

Ma said he was confident that the SEF and ARATS would continue to function as the intermediary bodies for cross-strait exchanges.

Asked whether he supported the idea of convening a meeting of the major powers on the cross-strait issue, similar to the six-party talks on North Korea, Ma said it would be more appropriate for the two sides to solve their problems themselves. However, he said he would welcome any advice offered by foreign countries.

agreements

Ma said that the SEF and ARATS had conducted 24 rounds of cross-strait negotiations before 2000 and that four agreements were reached during the first Koo-Wang meeting in Singapore in April 1993. The four agreements indicate that both sides are willing and able to resolve their problems, he said.

defense

Ma said upon his arrival in Japan on Wednesday that, if elected, he would increase Taiwan's military budget to 3 percent of the country's GDP.

"This would be to show our resolve to defend ourselves," Ma said.

Given this, a journalist asked why the KMT has been at loggerheads with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over defense spending.

Ma answered that although the US government had approved the sale of a package of arms, including submarines, Patriot missiles and anti-submarine aircraft, to Taiwan in 2001, the DPP administration had not submitted a budget bill for the procurement until three years later, in June 2004.

Noting that that proposal was rejected at one point by the legislature on the grounds that details of the proposal were too sketchy and prices were about twice as high as the fair market value, Ma said the purchase of Patriot missiles was later nixed by the Taiwanese public in a nationwide referendum in 2004 initiated by the DPP administration.

He said the purchase of P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft had already been passed by the legislature and the purchase of submarines was still under assessment.

Ma, who was confronted by protesters on Thursday angered by Taiwan's claim to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), said the issue should be solved in a peaceful manner, via negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

The Diaoyutais, a group of uninhabited islands northwest of Taiwan that are controlled by Japan, are also claimed by China.

Ma was to return from this three-day visit to Japan later yesterday.

hsieh says no

In Taichung, Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday he would not visit China if elected next year, a Central News Agency (CNA) report said.

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