President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the establishment of representative offices on both sides of the Taiwan Strait would be of great political significance, adding that cross-strait development had facilitated the nation’s participation in regional economic integration.
During a meeting with members of the US’ National Committee on American Foreign Policy at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Ma touted the government’s plan to establish offices for the Straits Exchange Foundation in China and for the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits in Taiwan.
He defined the nature of the offices as political, straying from his previous comments that the offices would be “neutral.”
“The nature of the cross-strait representative offices is not economic: It’s political. The offices would have more political significance than previous cross-strait agreements,” he said.
The proposal to establish the offices, which would require an amendment to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), is still pending approval in the legislature.
Ma has previously said that the function of the offices would be “neutral,” and that there are no political implications, even though the government is negotiating with Beijing to obtain unlimited visitation rights for Taiwanese detained in China.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said Taiwan plans to set up three representative offices in China, but that it is unlikely to allow Beijing to set up 10 offices in Taiwan.
The establishment of the cross-strait representative offices has drawn criticism from opposition parties.
DPP lawmakers have said the move could damage the nation’s sovereignty, adding that China could use the offices as a channel for gathering intelligence.
However, Ma further stressed the progress of the cross-strait relations via meetings between political leaders from the two sides during the recent APEC summit, citing a meeting between MAC Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), during which they addressed each other by their respective official titles.
Separately yesterday, while meeting with a delegation from Russia, Ma said cross-strait relations create a virtuous circle for the nation’s relations with other countries.
He said the aviation agreement signed on Wednesday between Taiwan and Russia would enhance economic and cultural exchanges.
According to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, the agreement will help define the number of flights and their routes between the two countries.
Additional reporting by CNA