President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) defended his administration’s efforts to maintain cross-strait peace and boost the economy as major achievements in an interview with the New York Times, saying that promoting cross-strait relations while maintaining sovereignty will remain a priority during his second term if re-elected.
In the interview, conducted last month and released yesterday, Ma, who is seeking re-election on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) ticket next Saturday, said that the thaw in cross-strait relations did not change China’s objective of achieving “peaceful unification,” when asked to comment on the Chinese military’s deployment of missiles targeting Taiwan.
However, he said that seeking closer ties with China would bring more benefits to the nation than damage.
“There are risks, so when dealing with cross-strait matters, we always proceed carefully, one step at a time ... Judging from the current situation, the Taiwan Strait region is increasingly peaceful and prosperous. I believe that no one would think of changing this situation, since the price would be too high for either side to pay,” he said.
Ma said his “three noes” policy was his major principle for handling cross-strait relations, and promised to maintain the cross-strait “status quo” under the policy — no unification, no independence and no use of force — and the so-called “1992 consensus.”
He promised not to discuss unification during his term, and dismissed the possibility of meetings between him and Chinese President Hu Jin-tao (胡錦濤).
“If I were to meet with the leader of mainland China, I would do so while maintaining my title of president and there is no way that this would be acceptable to them. Therefore, I will not be visiting mainland China, and I don’t believe Mr Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) would visit Taiwan at this juncture,” he said.
In addressing the relations between Taiwan, China and the US, Ma cited US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as saying in Hawaii that Taiwan is a solid strategic security and economic partner of the US, and said the listing of Taiwan as a candidate country of the US’ visa-waiver program showed that cross-strait developments encouraged the recovery of a high level of bilateral trust between Taiwan and the US.
“Since the cross-strait relations have improved, it has become easier for the United States to implement its own policies concerning Taiwan and mainland China. Also, the impression of the international media is that Taiwan is no longer regarded as a troublemaker, but rather, as a force for peace,” he said.
Discussing the presidential election, Ma acknowledged facing a neck-and-neck race with his main opponent, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), with recent polls showing Tsai trailing by only a few percentage points or taking a slight lead, and attributed disappointing support to the government poorly publicizing its efforts.
“People are more and more realizing that my staying in office will bring greater prosperity, as well as social fairness, and be better for the environment … there are many things we have accomplished that people are not aware of. This is an area in which we will indeed to improve,” he said.
Ma also dismissed a previous allegation that Chinese officials have been campaigning for him and soliciting support among Taiwanese businesspeople, saying that he has called on China to refrain from any involvement in the presidential and legislative elections.