Thu, May 22, 2008 - Page 3 News List

US hails Ma's olive branches to China

RELATIONS State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US welcomed efforts to reduce tensions with China, while an AIT official praised the smooth transition

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US on Tuesday welcomed the various olive branches that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) offered to China in his inaugural address, and said it looked forward to a vibrant US-Taiwan relationship during Ma's presidency.

In a short statement in his regular press briefing, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack congratulated Ma on his inauguration and said “we look forward to working with Taiwan’s new leaders and maintaining the vibrancy in our economic and people-to-people relationship.”

“We welcome initiatives to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

McCormack echoed US President George W. Bush’s words in his message of congratulations issued just hours after Ma’s election victory in March, calling for renewed discussions between China and Taiwan.

In that statement, Bush urged both sides to “build the essential foundation for peace and stability by pursuing dialogue through all available means ... I believe the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences.”

McCormack started off his press conference with the statement on Ma’s inauguration, an indication of the importance the Bush administration places on Ma’s presidency after eight years of tense relations under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

But later, when asked whether Ma’s election signaled a new era in US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait relations, McCormack refused to comment.

In his inaugural address, Ma made several pledges that will certainly cheer the Bush administration, including his vow to seek “reconciliation and truce” with China in cross-strait and international issues.

He also repeated his idea of a peace accord with China, which he first mentioned during a visit to Washington in March 2006. In a major speech during that trip, he called for a 30 to 50-year accord with Beijing to assure long-term peace across the Strait.

Ma’s promise to maintain the cross-strait status quo and not to tamper with the Constitution will be welcomed by Washington, which was concerned by what it saw as Chen’s efforts to unilaterally change the status quo by amending the Constitution and by other initiatives.

Ma also recalled Bush’s telephone call to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in March, in which both sides agreed that the so-called “1992 consensus” would be the proper way to navigate through cross-strait differences.

Ma’s promise to “rationalize the defense budget” and buy needed US weaponry should satisfy those in the Pentagon and others in Washington who have been frustrated by the reticence of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature to fund purchases of the arms package approved by Bush in April 2001.

At a reception in honor of the inauguration held by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) at Taiwan’s Washington mansion, Twin Oaks, on Tuesday, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Managing Director Barbara Schrage praised the peaceful transfer of power and expressed confidence that US-Taiwan friendship will grow under Ma.

“This second peaceful transition of power is an important milestone in Taiwan’s democratic development and maturity,” she said. “It demonstrates that democratic institutions and processes in Taiwan are firmly established. Clearly, Taiwan stands as a showcase for democracy in the world. The people of Taiwan have much to be proud of.”

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