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President says no urgency for peace pact with China

2012/05/20 16:56:14

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday there is no urgency at the moment for Taiwan to negotiate a peace pact with China.

He said a peace agreement with China would require strong public support and a referendum mandate and he does not see any urgency in the matter.

"There is no such a plan at present," Ma told local and foreign reporters at a press conference hours after being sworn in for his second term in office.

He said his approach to relations with China is to work "on the economy first and politics later, and on the easier tasks first and the more difficult ones later."

Asked if there was a plan to set up a committee for the peaceful development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Ma said he believes Taiwan's existing agencies -- the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Security Council -- are sufficient to deal with related issues.

In his inauguration speech Sunday at the start of his second term in office, Ma said national security rest on three legs -- cross-strait peace, viable diplomacy, and a strong defense.

"We must regard each as equally important and develop them in a balanced manner," the president said.

He said he hoped to see political and human rights reforms in China, which would help close the gap between the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

"I fervently look forward to the gradual opening up of greater popular participation in the political process on the mainland, along with steady improvement in human rights and the rule of law, and the autonomous development of civil society," he said. "This will further reduce the feeling of 'otherness' between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait."

Tensions between Taiwan and China have eased significantly since Ma first took office in 2008, but critics have accused him of compromising Taiwan's sovereignty in the process.

However, the president said in his inaugural speech that his policies are guided by Taiwan's Constitution. He also reiterated his principles of "no unification, no independence, no use of force" toward China.

During his presidential campaigns, Ma touted the "1992 consensus" which is largely seen as one of the main reasons for his re-election.

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

"When we speak of 'one China,' naturally it is the Republic of China," according to the Constitution, the president said at his inauguration.

"At present, the ROC government has authority to govern only in Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu," he said. "In other words, over the past two decades, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been defined as 'one Republic of China, two areas.'"

On the diplomatic front, Ma said Taiwan and the United States have established the most solid security and economic partnerships in 30 years.

Furthermore, the "special partnership" between Taiwan and Japan represents the friendliest state of bilateral links in 40 years, the president said.

He said the two sides have made important progress in cooperation in areas such as aviation, culture and investment.

Further afield, the European Union and the European Parliament's support for Taiwan's peaceful cross-strait policy and their desire to establish closer economic ties with Taiwan are also promising signs, Ma said.

Taiwan's participation in the annual World Health Assembly since 2009 and its accession to the World Trade Organization's government procurement agreement in 2010 prove that cross-strait development does not preclude achievement of greater international breathing space, he said.

"On the contrary, the two can even be mutually complementary," he said. "Over the next four years, we shall expand our participation in international organizations, including the activities of United Nations agencies that specialize in climate change and civil aviation."

Ma's approval ratings prior to his inauguration fell to a new low amid anger over his handling of domestic economic affairs, including utility rate hikes, a proposal to lift the ban of U.S. beef imports containing additive ractopamine, and a capital tax gains proposal.

Opposition parties and members of the public have been staging protests in Taipei and other areas since Saturday to voice their dissatisfaction over his policies.

(By Lee Shu-hua, Chen Pei-huang and Ann Chen)