President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he would not negotiate unification with China during his presidency, but would consider launching talks on a peace agreement if re-elected in 2012.
Ma said he was not opposed to launching negotiations with Beijing on political matters, including a peace treaty, during a second term as president.
Ma made the remarks in an interview with Taiwan’s China Television yesterday morning.
He said that he had promised in his inauguration address, under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution, not to discuss unification with Beijing during his presidency, not to pursue or support de jure independence and not to use military force to resolve the matter of Taiwan’s status.
“I will not engage in talks on unification with mainland China during my presidency, regardless of whether it lasts four years or eight,” he said.
Nor would political negotiations necessarily have to start in 2012, he said, adding that it would depend on developments and whether more pressing issues such as the economy had been addressed.
Ma said he was aware of China’s efforts to achieve unification, but that his administration was focusing on more urgent, less controversial matters, including the economy.
Although these negotiations inevitably touch on some political matters, both sides have sought to avoid sensitive topics, he said.
Ma said the political agenda behind Beijing’s economic engagement with Taiwan was no secret, yet “some administrations handle it well, some not so well.”
“I think my administration handles it rather well,” he said, adding that Beijing does not seek political gains in all its dealings with Taiwan and that a win-win situation for both sides of the Strait is possible.
Ma said Beijing was hesitant to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), possibly because of differences between Taiwan’s ruling and opposition parties. However, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) have both expressed interest in an ECFA.
As negotiations on an ECFA could take time, Ma said the two sides should start with matters where there is already a consensus.
“It is like an elementary school student doing math. Do the easier questions first, before moving on to more difficult ones,” Ma said.
“Because of the complexity of cross-strait relations, it is rather difficult to reach the goal immediately,” he said.
He said he would not change his goal of pursuing an ECFA regardless of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) opinion, though his administration would continue to negotiate with the party.
Ma said the economic pact would likely be one topic at the next round of cross-strait talks, scheduled for the second half of the year.
The president said he did not have any immediate plans to visit China, adding that high-level visits were complicated by issues of security and national sovereignty and dignity.
“My approach has always been to deal with a problem if we cannot solve it,” he said. “You’ll achieve nothing by fixating on sovereignty. Cross-strait relations have developed since we came to power because both sides set aside their differences and focused on more pressing and solvable matters.”
In response, DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said Ma should not lie to the public about unification with China.
Cheng said the DPP viewed Ma’s policies as geared at achieving unification. Ma’s strategy for dealing with criticism is to lie to the public, Cheng said.
The DPP urged Ma to put an end to policies that move toward unification.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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