Thu, Mar 27, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Post-Election 2008: Ma unlikely to bring Taiwan closer to China: Lee Teng-hui

AFP , TOKYO

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is unlikely to bring Taiwan close to Beijing any time soon as the Chinese Communist Party does not trust him, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said.

Speaking in an interview with Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper, Lee dismissed suggestions that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member Ma would integrate Taiwan with China.

"Taiwan will not be taken by China so easily. Why? Actually the the Chinese Communist Party does not trust Mr Ma from the bottom of its heart," he said in the interview published yesterday.

"I'm not in a position to elaborate but he is influenced very strongly by the United States," the 85-year-old Lee said of Ma.

The former president said Ma "can be self-righteous but is also modern."

Lee had supported Ma's rival, Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the presidential election even though Ma served as justice minister in the 1990s under Lee's rule.

Lee also doubted that China's crackdown on Tibet was a decisive factor in the election, saying that people did not want to provoke Beijing.

"Would it do Taiwan any good if we supported Tibet when Taiwan's safety is not guaranteed? No," Lee said.

Ma focused his campaign on reviving Taiwan's economy by tapping into the vast China market.

Rival Hsieh also wanted closer ties with China but was much more cautious, saying Ma's plan would leave Taiwan's economy vulnerable to being swallowed up.

Japan switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Bei-jing in 1972. But Lee and other people critical of China enjoy wide support in conservative circles in Japan.

Ma has tried to play down a reputation that he is anti-Japanese. Lee said he was willing to work with the incoming president to promote ties with Japan, which ruled Taiwan as a colony for a half-century until 1945.

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