Having said his new policy calling for a “diplomatic truce” with China has received praise from the US and some allies, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) met with challenge on Friday when questioned about the meaning of the policy by Taiwan’s allies.
During a 20-minute meeting with Ma on board a charter flight, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya asked Ma how Taiwan’s allies, given their long-term support for the nation, should react to the seeming thaw in cross-strait relations.
Ma responded by saying that Taiwan would make efforts to consolidate relationships with Taiwan’s allies and would also be happy to see the allies develop substantive cultural, economic and trade relations with China.
“Just as Taiwan would like to have cultural, economic and trade relations with China’s allies, I am pleased to see our allies develop relations with China if they want to,” Ma said.
Ma told Zelaya that the reason he advocated conciliation and “diplomatic truce” between Taiwan and China is to ameliorate cross-strait relations as it can “benefit all parties.”
“As Taiwan has better relationships with China, the US-Taiwan relationship will become better and allies of both Taiwan and China will benefit from that,” Ma said.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) briefed the press on the meeting, but refused to take any questions on the discussion between Ma and Zelaya.
Ma invited Zelaya and Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada to fly on his charter flight from Asuncion to Santo Domingo to attend the inauguration of Dominican Republic’s reelected President Leonel Fernandez yesterday after Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo’s swearing-in ceremony.
During Ma’s state visit to the Central American and Caribbean Region — his first trip abroad since assuming office in May — Ma has met with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and Lugo. The Presidential Office said both were sold on the idea of a “diplomatic truce.”
The frosty relations between Taiwan and China have been thawing since Ma took office on May 20, and his proposal of a “diplomatic truce” is aimed at terminating the longstanding diplomatic tug-of-war with China in which both countries try to lure each other’s allies to switch diplomatic allegiance by offering large sums of money in foreign aid. Taiwan and China’s allies currently stand at 23 and 170 respectively.
Ma also touted the strategy of “modus vivendi” or “pragmatic diplomacy,” designed to leverage more international space for Taiwan.
An official that declined to be named said that the concern expressed by Zelaya reflected concerns from some of the nation’s allies that they might get less funding from Taiwan if the nation no longer fears losing allies to China under Ma’s proposed “diplomatic truce.”
The promises made by Ma that his administration would stick to all the current aid projects left from the previous administration and would increase its foreign aid budget, which is still less than the international standard, could pacify the allies, the official added.
The official admitted that there is a risk of bringing China in to playing a pivotal role in determining relations between Taiwan and its allied countries.
Ma is scheduled to make a transit stop in San Francisco today and tomorrow on his way from the Dominican Republic back to Taiwan. Ma’s plane will stop for one hour in Austin, Texas, to refuel before arriving in San Francisco today. Ma is slated to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday.