Bloomberg News

Taiwan’s Ma Says Referendum Needed Prior to China Peace Talks

October 20, 2011

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said his government would hold a national referendum before engaging in peace talks with China, a day after his opponent in presidential elections next year said a treaty would undermine the island’s sovereignty and threaten its democracy.

Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said yesterday that Taiwan can’t “ignore the risk” of signing a peace agreement with China, which remains “an authoritarian state.” Ma made the comments in a live broadcast today on CTiTV.

Ma, 61, said on Oct. 17 that he hopes to sign a peace pact with China within 10 years, provided there is domestic consensus and trust on both sides, and it is done under the supervision of Taiwan’s parliament. Tsai says that while she’s willing to work with China, Taiwan’s future must be determined by its people and not the island’s cross-strait neighbor.

“The effect of a peace agreement depends on the credibility of the signers,” Tsai said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Ma said today that the issue of peace talks with China can’t be avoided within the next decade and that he hadn’t set a timetable for when a peace agreement should be signed, according to a statement on the President’s website.

Taiwan will hold presidential elections on Jan. 14 and Tsai is the island’s first female nominee. China regards Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and has threatened to invade if the government there makes moves toward formal independence. As of December, China had as many as 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s annual review of the mainland’s military.

Six-Decade Ban

Ma, who heads the Kuomintang party that fought China’s communists six decades ago, reversed the DPP’s pro-independence stance when he took office in 2008. Taiwan has since signed 15 economic agreements with the mainland in a policy that Tsai has said is “boxed in a frame set by China.” Ma has also resumed direct flights with China, eased investment restrictions and allowed Chinese visitors after a six-decade ban.

The president on Oct. 17 reiterated his mainland policy of “no unification, no independence and no use of force under the framework of the Republic of China constitution.”

In the 2008 presidential election, the KMT beat the DPP 58 percent to 42 percent by pledging to abandon a pro-independence stance in favor of strengthening economic relations with China. Support for Ma fell three percentage points this month from September to 43 percent, while Tsai’s approval rating was unchanged at 38 percent, the Taipei-based TVBS Poll Center said Oct. 15.

Ma’s policies run the risk of “making political concessions in exchange for economic benefits,” Tsai, a former vice premier who has a doctorate in law from the London School of Economics, said in a speech on Feb. 23. Tsai served as the head of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top China policymaking agency, from 2000 to 2004.

--Editors: Peter Hirschberg, Mark Williams

To contact the reporter on this story: Adela Lin in Taipei at alin95@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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