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Taiwan's Ma promises better China ties

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Latest update : 2008-03-23

Taiwan's president-elect Ma Ying-jeou promised a new era of peace and improved political and economic ties with China after securing a landslide victory in Saturday's presidential election. (Report: P.Hall)

Taiwan's president-elect Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday he wanted a "mutual non-denial" agreement with China and vowed to work to lay the groundwork for a century of peace and prosperity.
   
Speaking the morning after sweeping to a landslide victory, Ma promised to improve relations with China -- which still claims sovereignty over Taiwan -- but said he had no plans to visit anytime soon.
  
In a wide-ranging news conference here, he also reiterated his support for autonomy for Tibet in the wake of China's military crackdown in the Himalayan region.
  
The Harvard-educated opposition Kuomintang candidate won 58 percent of the vote Saturday, trouncing his ruling party challenger by almost 17 points and earning the congratulations of US President George W. Bush.
  
Ma said he backed a 1992 consensus between Beijing and Taipei, under which both accepted the formula of 'one China' but agreed to interpret it in their own way.
  
"The sovereignty issue has been the most intractable issue across the Taiwan Strait," Ma acknowledged. "It's a question between conflicting claims."
  
He said the old policy of each side denying the other's right to exist was in the past, but mutual recognition was "out of the question" too.
  
Mutual non-denial was the middle road -- "we will not deny their existence but we cannot recognise their sovereignty" over Taiwan.
  
China has threatened an invasion if Taiwan declares independence, leaving the US-allied island in a murky limbo.
  
Ma has vowed to work to improve trade, tourism and transport links and to work for a peace treaty to end decades of hostilities since Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.
  
By returning to the 1992 consensus, he said, "we can move ahead to other urgent, less intractable issues."
  
"We want to make sure we are not negotiating Taiwan's future... Taiwan's identity has to be respected. We will negotiate with each other on an equal footing," he went on.
  
Trust him, he said, urging voters to re-elect him in four years' time, and "if you give me eight years I will lay the foundation for a century of peace and prosperity."
  
However Ma -- who formally takes office on May 20 -- said he had "no plans" to visit China.
  
"We want to work on substantive issues. If we are able to do that we will consider whether a high-level visit is required."
  
The vote had been closely watched by Beijing and Washington for signs of a new approach after eight years of recurring tensions under outgoing President Chen Shui-bian.
  
Ma had made improving ties with Beijing a cornerstone of his platform for the KMT, and that -- coupled with concern over the stuttering economy -- swept him to victory.
  
Bush, in a written message, said Ma's win was a fresh chance for bilateral relations with the mainland.
  
"I believe the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides (China and Taiwan) to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences," he added.
  
Ma said he wanted to negotiate three issues with China: winning an economic cooperation agreement; a peace accord including military confidence-building measures to avoid a flashpoint incident; and Taiwan's diplomatic status on the world stage.
  
"These are very ambitious plans which will require the other side's goodwill, but we have no choice," he said.
  
On Tibet, Ma said the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama would be "more than welcome" to visit Taiwan again.
  
"I think he is a moderate person, very persuasive. That is why I support his idea for autonomy for Tibet," he said. China has refused to talk to the Dalai Lama and accuses his "clique" of orchestrating unrest there.
  
Ma's victory, together with the KMT's crushing defeat over the Democratic Progressive Party in January's parliamentary elections, restores his party to political dominance in Taiwan, eight years after Chen ended its half-century grip on power. 

Date created : 2008-03-23

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