Singapore happy to host Ma, Xi: academic

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Mar 09, 2014 - Page 3

A Singaporean academic on Friday said that the city-state would be happy to host a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) because it is always happy to help promote peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Tan Khee Giap, director of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s Asia Competitiveness Institute, told the Central News Agency that he is optimistic about the chances of such a meeting being held in Singapore if it is decided that it should take place “at a third location.”

However, Tan’s fellow academic Li Mingjiang said it would not be possible to hold the meeting at any place other than Taiwan or China because of its political sensitivity.

Using Singapore as a location for the encounter would give international media room to offer their own interpretations of the event’s significance, which Beijing would not be happy about, said Li, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Hong Kong or Macau would be better “because they would be less [politically] sensitive,” Li said.

The proposed Ma-Xi meeting has been in the media spotlight since the first meeting between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) took place last month.

Tan’s comments came a day after China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) said “it would be nice” if the proposed Ma-Xi summit were held “in a third location.”

Some regard Singapore as a possible venue because that is where the first high-level meeting between Taiwanese and Chinese officials took place in April 1993, when then-ARATS chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) held talks with his Taiwanese counterpart at the time, former Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫).

Taipei sees this year’s APEC leaders’ summit in Beijing as the best venue, but China has been cool to the idea due to concerns that Ma’s appearance at an international gathering would lend credence to Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Recalling the 1993 meeting, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was head of state when the summit occurred, said Singapore was selected to host the landmark event because of its geographic proximity to Taiwan and China.

In addition, then-Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) served as a peace broker between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and had promised to treat both sides’ offices equally, Lee said.