CHINA / Taiwan, HK, Macao

Taiwan's Ma vows to maintain status quo
Updated: 2006-03-23 08:35

Taiwan's main opposition leader and potential "presidential" front-runner vowed on Wednesday to uphold the status quo with mainland, rejecting both independence and early reunification.

Ma Ying-jeou, the Mayor of Taipei, Taiwan claps in response to a student's question at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts March 21, 2006. [Reuters]
Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the Nationalist Party and mayor of Taipei, said if his party wins the "presidency" in the 2008 election, he would reopen talks with the mainland on mutually accepted terms.

"We will not pursue Taiwan's de jure independence, nor will we pursue the policy of immediate unification," Ma told Reuters Television in an interview in Washington.

"This is a policy that really fits the needs of the United States, Japan, Chinese mainland and the Taiwanese people," said the 55-year-old Ma, seen by many as the opposition's best bet for victory in the 2008 polls.

Taiwan's relations with mainland have been strained since February when pro-independence Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian scrapped the "National Unification Council," a dormant but politically significant body aimed at one day reuniting mainland and Taiwan.

Ma's Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang, favors closer ties with Chinese mainland and has criticized Chen's move.

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Ma vowed to resume talks that have been frozen since before the election in 2000 of Chen, whose Democratic Progressive Party champions an independent Taiwan identity.

"If the Kuomintang is able to come back to power in 2008, we certainly will resume the interrupted negotiations based on the 1992 consensus, namely one China, different interpretations, this has been accepted by mainland," Ma said, referring to a formula agreed 14 years ago in Singapore.

The United States recognizes the "one-China" policy, but in a deliberately ambiguous piece of foreign policy it is also obliged by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

U.S. President George W. Bush has offered what would be the biggest arms sales to Taiwan in more than a decade. But the Nationalist-led opposition, which controls a slim majority in parliament, has repeatedly blocked the deal.

Ma was cautious when asked about the stalemate over the package of advanced weaponry offered by Washington in 2001,

"We support reasonable purchase of arms from the United States, we need adequate defense capability (and) we want to demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves," he said.


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