President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recounted his administration’s efforts to promote regional stability as a peacemaker and as a US ally in a video link to a conference with US academics and former US officials organized yesterday by Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.
He also described as “interesting” Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) desire to uphold the “status quo,” calling it an unexpected move from an opposition leader.
Speaking at the beginning of the conference, Ma said the Taiwan-US relationship is at its best in 36 years.
“There are two key reasons,” he said. “First is the successful handling of the cross-strait relationship based on the 1992 consensus, namely the ‘one China, respective interpretations’ principle. Second [is] the low-key and surprise-free approach to the conduct of our [Taiwan-US] bilateral relations.”
The “status quo,” Ma’s peace initiatives, Taiwan’s intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the nation’s defense strategy were among the topics of questions raised in the conference.
Former US National Intelligence Council chairman Thomas Fingar asked Ma to elaborate on the “status quo” he has been upholding and to comment on the opinion that “if the relationship is not moving forward, it is automatically sliding back.”
Ma listed the declarations of “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” under the framework of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, and the promotion of the “1992 consensus” as elements of his “status quo.”
“It is a status quo that is very different from [the one] seven years ago,” Ma said.
That the presidential candidate of an opposition party echoes the idea of maintaining the “status quo” is an “interesting development,” since usually an opposition leader would want to change government policies, Ma said.
Fingar asked how Ma would work to advance the South China Sea Peace Initiative he proposed last month. Ma said that he expects it to achieve results as significant as those of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, which he said helped Japan and Taiwan seal a fisheries agreement that had been impossible before.
He emphasized that a road map of the new initiative is to be announced in the near future.
Lanhee Chen (陳仁宜), the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, asked Ma how he would push for Taiwan’s participation in the TPP during his final months in office.
The president said various government departments last year began to prepare for Taiwan’s participation in the TPP.
However, “we understand it is difficult for us to join because none of the 12 potential members of the TPP is our diplomatic ally,” he said.
Ma also raised potential domestic resistance from industries that might be affected by market liberalization as an obstacle that could make opening up for free trade “an uneasy job.”
He mentioned the “obstruction” met by the cross-strait services trade agreement, “which still lies in the Legislative Yuan after 20 rounds of public hearings,” as an example of domestic resistance.
“This is certainly a message that our trading partners probably do not like to see; they hope once an agreement is negotiated and completed that it would receive a proper hearing in the national legislature so the agreement can become reality,” he said.
Former US ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry asked about Taiwan’s defense strategy, saying that he noticed in 2011 when he visited Kinmen — which used to be a “fortress with 100,000 troops” — that there are probably more Chinese tourists there now than the local population.
Reiterating his idea of a “three-line defense,” which involves “the institutionalization of rapprochement with [China],” “making Taiwan an asset rather than liability to the international community,” and continuing to maintain a military force with outside assistance on weaponry — mainly from the US, Ma said Taiwan and its national defense could “become an important part of the rebalance to Asia strategy of the US.”
Taiwan could also serve as a regional peacemaker, Ma said.
An audience member asked whether Taiwanese would be more likely to support “unification” with China if it becomes “more democratic,” a query the president called “very hypothetical.”
“We hope [China] will become democratic, but we are not trying to impose Western values on [China]. If we look at Chinese history, some rulers were advised to tolerate dissent — let me repeat — to tolerate dissent. This is not only a Western tradition,” Ma said.
If China does democratize, “I am sure the psychological distance between the two peoples will be greatly diminished. I cannot promise that the [Taiwanese] people will then support unification, but at least the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can think on an equal basis, which would be the first step to an integration,” he said.
The Han Kuang exercises, the nation’s major war games, are to start today and run for five days. The drills are to include a military aircraft emergency takeoff and landing exercise on a regular roadway on Wednesday, featuring all three fighter jet models in Taiwan’s fleet, a military source said last week. The drill is to begin at 6:30am on a 3km section of Provincial Highway No. 1 in Pingtung County’s Jiadong Township (佳冬), and feature an Indigenous Defense Fighter, an F-16V, a Mirage 2000-5 and an E-2K Hawkeye early warning aircraft, the source said. The emergency landing and takeoff drill aims to
MRNA VACCINE: Heart inflammation is rare, but possible after a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot, and students need to be aware of possible side effects, an expert said As Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations for students aged 12 to 17 are to begin on campuses on Thursday next week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged recipients to be especially watchful for five signs of possible myocarditis or pericarditis, which are rare adverse reactions to some COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convener Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) joined the CECC’s daily news briefing to report on possible side effects after receiving a BioNTech vaccine. Lee said that cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been observed in people in the US who have received mRNA COVID-19
Taiwan on Friday accused China of seeking to use the Honduran election to “create controversy” and undermine Taiwan’s long-standing ties with the country, saying it would strive to win support for Honduras’ relations with Taipei. Honduras’ main left-wing opposition party, the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), led by ousted former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, has said that if it wins November’s presidential election it would seek to “readjust” the country’s debt and establish diplomatic relations with China. Honduras is one of 15 UN member countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has already warned Honduras not
TESTING THE WATERS: Making the considerations public a day after a Biden-Xi phone call indicates that the US is testing China’s reaction, a think tank head said A Financial Times report that the US is considering allowing Taiwan to change the name of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington to feature the name “Taiwan” highlighted Washington’s “two-pronged” approach to China, a researcher said yesterday. The report on Friday said that Washington might allow the nation to change the office’s name to “Taiwan Representative Office.” The report came after US President Joe Biden on Thursday spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) by telephone for the first time since February. A White House readout of the call said that “the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both