Mon, Jan 16, 2012 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: ANALYSIS: Despite US praise for Taiwan vote, relations still likely to remain same

Staff reporter in Washington

The US government was delighted with the re-election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), but there were no signs that White House approval would lead to any major benefits for Taiwan.

Washington remains anxious not to upset China and any rewards for Taiwan returning Ma to power are likely to be few.

Senior members of the administration of US President Barack Obama could visit Taiwan this year and restrictions governing visits to the US by top Taiwanese officials might be relaxed.

However, there is little chance of an early breakthrough on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks.

No one contacted for comment by the Taipei Times was optimistic that the White House would change its mind on the sale of advanced F-16C/D aircraft or help with the procurement of submarines.

A statement issued by the Washington office of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) said that its members around the world were “disappointed and concerned” by the election result.

“Members are concerned about continued and even more forceful erosion of freedom and justice in Taiwan, and the continued drift of Taiwan toward China,” FAPA president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said.

Dean Cheng (成斌), a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, called on Obama to send a current US Cabinet member to Taiwan “as soon as possible.”

“It would underscore both the importance of Taiwan to the US and that Washington will maintain its own policy prerogatives regarding the island,” he said.

In a statement congratulating Taiwan on the elections, Obama gave no hint this would happen.

A large group of Taiwanese reporters gathered at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington — watching as votes were counted back home — were joined by Richard Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and by Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In separate interviews with the Taipei Times, Bush and Glaser emphasized how important it was that the election process seemed to have been both free and fair.

“We have to give the Democratic Progressive Party’s cairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a lot of credit. Her party was at a low point when she took over and she has raised important issues, Glaser said. “Many people did not vote for President Ma Ying-jeou and that is a signal to him that there is a degree of dissatisfaction within the society. There are some issues that he needs to address in his second term.”

“There is do doubt that the progress in the cross-strait relationship in the last four years has been due to the achievements on relatively easy issues. The second term under President Ma will be more difficult. Some issues that are too difficult will probably not even be on the table because of the lack of domestic consensus in Taiwan,” she added.

Glaser said that it was “unlikely, but not out of the question” that political issues would be raised.

The US had made no secret of its approval of the approach Ma had taken towards China, Bush said.

“There is an understanding in the US that the second term is not going to be as easy as the first term. Cross-strait relations may slow down. It’s doubtful that China and Taiwan will get into political issues in the second term. I don’t think the two sides have built a conceptual foundation for that,” he added. “The divided nature of the Taiwanese electorate, which this election demonstrated once again, shows that the political consensus doesn’t exist yet.”

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