President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) met former South African president F. W. de Klerk at the Presidential Office yesterday for a discussion about peace.
Ma told the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner that Taiwan had forged 15 pacts with China over the past three years, contributing to the reduction of cross-strait tensions and institutionalizing peaceful engagement.
Saluting de Klerk’s contributions to ending racial segregation in South Africa, Ma said Taiwan also had ethnic tensions in the past, but the excruciating “sharpness” of those issues had been gradually addressed as Taiwan grew more democratic and education levels improved.
“South Africa and Taiwan have shared common values on these concerns,” he said.
For his part, De Klerk, who served as South African president from 1989 to 1994, said he was blessed to have opportunities to serve South Africa and do something for his country.
He said South Africa had maintained cordial relations with the Republic of China (ROC) as -diplomatic allies, but unfortunately those ties ended when formal diplomatic relations were severed in 1997.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate said he was glad to see that cross-strait relations had become so much “warmer” under Ma’s leadership.
He said he would make every effort to enhance bilateral exchanges between South Africa and Taiwan despite the absence of formal ties.
De Klerk was invited to Taiwan by the Council for Cultural Affairs to take part in the ROC’s centennial.
Ma said it would have been impossible in the past to imagine that Taiwan and China would be able to come to terms one day, he said.
Taiwan, however, has turned the impossible into the possible and opened its doors to more than 1 million visitors from across the Taiwan Strait each year.
“Our resolve helped make it happen,” he told de Klerk.
De Klerk is best known for initiating and presiding over the inclusive negotiations that led to the dismantling of apartheid and the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic -Constitution in 1993.
That same year, de Klerk and then South African president Nelson Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to end racial segregation.