President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed the hope that China will allow Taiwan to participate in a meeting next May of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in an interview with the Washington Post, saying both sides would begin negotiations on the matter soon.
“We’re not asking to be admitted to the WHO in the name of Taiwan ... What we’re doing is calling upon the United Nations to examine the need for the 23 million people’s meaningful participation in the activities of the UN specialized agencies,” Ma said. “Our demands are rather moderate, and what we have been saying is this is not only a political issue, it’s also a human rights issue.”
The interview, which was conducted on Dec. 9 at the Presidential Office, was published in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post.
Ma said the WHA would become a subject of negotiation in the next couple of months, without elaborating. When asked about Taiwan’s proposed status in the WHO, Ma said “WHA first.”
He said he hoped the country could attend the WHA as an observer, but he recognized the fact that the object would require “a lot of efforts, a lot of negotiations and a lot of consultations.”
Ma said Taiwan’s friends, including the US, generally supported the country’s meaningful participation in the WHA next year.
In addition to participation in international organizations, Ma has proposed a “diplomatic truce” with Beijing with the aim of expanding the country’s international space, a policy that Ma said has “produced some concrete results.”
Ma, however, said that his administration has not yet begun negotiating the issue with Beijing since he made his intention known.
On Taiwan-US relations, Ma said he did not expect US president-elect Barack Obama to change Taiwan policy, and he expected to see the new administration continue to abide by the Taiwan Relations Act, but he would like to see it “maybe conducted in a different style.”
Ma said he did not think closer China ties would lead in the long run to fewer arms purchases from Washington, adding that the world, particularly the US, liked to see tension reduced in the Taiwan Strait when they were troubled by problems in Iraq, Iran and the Korean Peninsula.
“Now the flashpoint in [the] Taiwan Strait has almost been defused, and this is something that everybody would like to see,” he said.
Ma said he would also like to see closer ties with Washington as well as between Beijing and Washington, and that triangular relations could benefit from the improvement of bilateral relations.
While some were worried his China policy moved too fast, Ma said he has received no political pressure to move more slowly.
When asked about the violent police crackdown on protesters during the visit of Chinese cross-strait negotiator Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), Ma expressed regret but emphasized that tight security was prompted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and more police were injured during the protests than civilians.
“There are individual cases where people were hurt as a result of the over-use of force. That is something that could be reviewed and corrected,” he said.
“But by and large I think the people of Taiwan are basically freedom-loving and peaceful. The violence demonstrated during Chen Yunlin’s visit should be considered the exception rather than the rule,” he said.
On the economy, Ma said “it’s very difficult to change the economic reality when we are so much affected by your financial tsunami,” he said, referring to the US-led global crisis.