Presidential election 2008: Reaction: US President praises Ma, Taiwan following election


Sun, Mar 23, 2008 - Page 4

US President George W. Bush, signaling his administration's pleasure over Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) victory, praised Ma and the Taiwanese people, in a statement issued shortly after the results of the election were announced.

"I congratulate the people of Taiwan on the successful conclusion of their March 22 presidential election. Once again, Taiwan has demonstrated the strength and vitality of its democracy. I also congratulate Mr. Ma Ying-jeou on his victory," Bush said.

"Taiwan is a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world. I am confident that the election and the democratic process it represents will advance Taiwan as a prosperous, secure, and well-governed society."

The statement contrasted to the US position four years ago, when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) won his second term, and it took several days for the Bush administration to congratulate Chen specifically. At the time, the State Department's first post-election comment congratulated only the Taiwanese people, not Chen himself, reflecting the bilateral strains that had built up by then.

The department was originally scheduled to issue the statement this time, but the administration decided to elevate the statement as the election results came in.

In his statement, Bush called for direct dialogue between Taiwan and China.

"It falls to Taiwan and Beijing to build the essential foundations for peace and stability by pursuing dialogue through all available means and refraining from unilateral steps that would alter the cross-strait situation. I believe the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences," Bush said.

The president also pledged to maintain strong relations between Taipei and Washington.

"The maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the welfare of the people on Taiwan remain of profound importance to the United States," he said. "We will continue to maintain close unofficial ties with the people on Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan in accordance with our long standing `one China' policy, our three Joint Communiques with the People's Republic of China, and the Taiwan Relations Act."

Meanwhile, the head of the leading organization championing better US-Taiwan business relations said on the eve of the presidential election that Washington must permit direct, high-level contacts with Taiwanese leaders if the US expects to develop a healthy, reasonable relationship with Taiwan under the nation's new administration.

"It is essential that Washington drop the counterproductive barriers to high-level communication with Taiwan and begin actively encouraging dialogue between each party," Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said in a special commentary issued on Thursday.