It is imperative for China to respect the will of Taiwanese people and make the development of cross-strait relations a virtuous, rather than a vicious cycle, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said in an interview with the Central News Agency on Friday.
“China needs to know that both sides of the Strait have fought over the issue of sovereignty for decades without a solution. That is why we say it’s time to set the dispute to one side and stop focusing on the issue,” Yang said. “We also think that China should take the desire of the 23 million Taiwanese to participate in the international community more seriously.”
Economically, Taiwan and China stepped up efforts to liberalize bilateral trade ties by signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in June, he said, adding that bilateral personnel exchanges have also increased since the relaxation of regulations.
On the political front, since assuming office in May 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has called for rapprochement, flexible diplomacy and a diplomatic truce with China to reduce tensions and stop a diplomatic war over international allies, Yang said.
However, Taiwan’s international space is still limited, Yang added. For many Taiwanese, various incidents at international events suggest that China is still reluctant to further extend its goodwill.
China has to understand that “cross-strait relations and Taiwan’s external relations should go hand-in-hand in a virtuous cycle,” Yang said, so that the Taiwanese people will be more supportive of government policy.
“In the past, it has been a vicious cycle and a relentless diplomatic war,” Yang said.
Taiwan has done its part to extend olive branches, choosing not to escalate tension through its efforts to participate in politically sensitive international organizations, such as the UN, asking instead only for meaningful participation, he said.
However, in countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, where Taiwan intends to boost its economic presence, friendly gestures from China are thin on the ground, Yang said.
“Taiwan does not intend to alter these countries’ relations with China, nor is it approaching them with a hidden agenda,” Yang said, adding that China’s diplomatic approach to Taiwan “has not been well thought through.”
Looking at the coming year, Yang said Taiwan’s diplomacy priorities will focus on consolidating relations with its current 23 diplomatic allies and relations with the EU, the US, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
“Taiwan may not enjoy official diplomatic relations with these countries, but we are allies who share the same values of freedom and democracy,” he said.
Taiwan will also actively seek more meaningful participation in international organizations, as well as international non-govermental organizations, he said.
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