Taiwan needs to be “very cautious” about agreeing to a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Democratic Progressive Party representative to the US Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told a Washington briefing on Tuesday.
Wu, who is also executive director of the party’s Policy Research Committee, said Taiwan and China frequently hold “very high-level” meetings.
Wu made the remarks at a briefing organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to discuss the DPP’s new China strategy, where he also said there was a “possibility” that Ma would attend the upcoming APEC leaders summit in Beijing and hold the meeting with Xi there.
Despite widespread speculation about such a meeting, it has not been confirmed by either side.
At the briefing, Wu presented a comprehensive list of recent cross-strait meetings between high-ranking officials to the attendees.
“If you look at this [list], you can see that Taiwan’s relations with China go far beyond our ties with any other country,” Wu said. “Even with a country as important as the US, we don’t have these kinds of high-level meetings.”
He said this was an issue the government needs to address, adding that the nation must reset its strategic priorities to move closer to countries like the US and Japan.
However, the DPP official also stressed that if Taiwan’s status could be safeguarded and its interests protected, he would welcome a Ma-Xi summit.
“However, we would first need to ask some key questions,” Wu said, warning that China might try to set preconditions for the tete-a-tete and insist on preparing a joint statement to release afterward.
“Will Taiwan’s relationship with the US be affected by such a meeting?” he asked. “If Taiwan and China are getting too close — without having our strategic interests in the picture — that might affect Taiwan’s key friends.”
CSIS senior vice president for Asia Michael Green said that Wu spent “a lot of time” focusing on the potential summit and asked if he was concerned that Ma would “pay a price” for meeting Xi.
“If Taiwan’s interests are not jeopardized, we would look at a very high-level meeting as one of the most important steps toward the normalization of cross-strait ties,” Wu said. “In order for cross-strait relations to be normalized without Taiwan’s interests being tarnished, we have to be very careful.”
He urged against Ma agreeing to anything that was not in the nation’s interests for the sake of the meeting, adding that Beijing might “maneuver” to release a joint statement without consulting Taipei.
Green said it was “very hard to see” how Ma could negotiate a “cost-free” summit and expressed doubt that the Xi wants the meeting “as much as some people in Taipei think,” while concluding that the meeting was “risky,” even though it is potentially beneficial.