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Taiwan lacks consensus on ties with China: ex-AIT official

2012/01/12 23:34:52

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) A former director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Thursday that both the United States and China described the main Taiwan opposition party's advocacy of forging a "Taiwan consensus" to deal with Beijing as "not possible."

In an interview with Taiwan's CTiTV television channel, Douglas Paal said that as an independent scholar, he had talked with U.S. and Chinese officials over the "Taiwan consensus."

They considered the proposed idea "not possible" because Taiwan is "deeply divided" about the future direction of its China ties and it might take decades to forge a consensus, he added.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has pledged if she wins the Jan. 14 election, she will seek a "Taiwan consensus" -- through a democratic process -- to replace the "1992 consensus" being employed by rival Kuomintang (KMT).

The "1992 consensus" refers to what the KMT describes as a tacit cross-Taiwan Strait understanding that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret the meaning of the phrase.

The KMT has also said that the current consensus in Taiwan is to maintain the status quo with China.

Asked whether Tsai has succeeded in convincing the U.S. during her visit to Washington, D.C. last September that she was able to manage Taiwan-China relations, he said that Tsai still has to find a way to persuade China that she could maintain the bilateral peace and stability.

"The assurances given about the management of cross-strait ties in Tsai's administration were too vague to make Washington comfortable," Paal noted, adding that the U.S. wants to see a more explicit response to get more confidence from her.

Tsai is in a three-way race against President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT and James Soong, the presidential candidate of the People First Party.

If Ma is elected, Paal thinks that the U.S., China and the region will breathe a "huge sigh of relief" because it means Taiwan will maintain the status quo with China.

However, if Tsai wins, he added, the U.S. will likely send a delegation to Taiwan immediately to make sure that the cross-strait relationship remains the same.

"The U.S. will quickly engage itself and try to help her come up with a formula that will preserve the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," he said.

The former AIT director was invited by the Cross-Strait Interflow Prospect Foundation to observe the presidential election along with the legislative polls. He is set to leave Taipei on Jan. 16.

(By Nell Shen)