Ma touts unification with `free' China

CONDITIONS: The KMT chairman told reporters in Geneva that the KMT does want to unify with China, but only when it has become free, democratic and prosperous

By Neil Lu and Deborah Kuo  /  CNA , GENEVA

Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 3

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Thursday denied that the KMT's cross-strait policies are tilted toward Beijing, saying that the KMT unwaveringly supports Taiwan and its people.

Ma told a press conference at the end of his one-day visit to Geneva that the KMT's stance on cross-strait relations is starkly different to that of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, but that this did not imply that he and the KMT were "pro-Beijing."

Ma said that the KMT firmly advocates closer cross-strait exchanges and the opening of direct postal, trade and transportation links between Taiwan and China.

The policy was based on the needs of Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China and was aimed at helping these enterprises make more money and become more competitive in the world market, he said.

Ma dismissed DPP criticisms that the KMT supports unification with China, saying that while the KMT does consider "ultimate cross-strait unification" an option in its cross-strait policy, unification can only be achieved after China has evolved into a country of freedom, democracy and prosperity, and on condition that the majority of Taiwanese voters consent to it.

He added that none of these conditions for the implementation of cross-strait unification had been met, and that the KMT had no timetable in this regard.

The goal of the KMT's cross-strait policy is to achieve peace and prosperity for Taiwan, and the party would advocate maintaining the status quo while boosting bilateral exchanges and mutual understanding across the Strait, Ma said.

In response to a Hong Kong journalist, Ma said he had not been invited by Beijing to visit China and that he did not think that now was the right time to do so.

Asked about his goals and responsibilities as KMT chairman, Ma said he would see to it that the KMT wins back power in the 2008 presidential election.

He added that the KMT would have to fight an uphill battle to win the election, and that the party needed to tackle several challenges, including changing the mentality of party members, rebuilding voter confidence and dealing with controversies surrounding KMT assets.

During his visit to Geneva, Ma met Swiss officials for talks on bilateral cooperation, and he exchanged views with specialists on the World Economic Forum on a range of topics.

Ma departed Geneva for London on Thursday evening to continue his five-nation European tour, which has taken him to Italy and will also take him to Ireland and Belgium.