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ELECTION 2024/KMT presidential nominee Hou rules out unification talks with China

01/11/2024 01:28 PM
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Kuomintang presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih (left) speaks at a press conference in Taipei Thursday. Photo courtesy of KMT Jan. 11, 2024
Kuomintang presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih (left) speaks at a press conference in Taipei Thursday. Photo courtesy of KMT Jan. 11, 2024

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Kuomintang (KMT) presidential nominee Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) on Thursday ruled out holding talks with Beijing over unification between Taiwan and China if elected president.

Hou made the remarks in response to a question raised at a pre-election press event in Taipei by a New York Times reporter, who asked the KMT nominee if he would be willing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), and, if so, what would be discussed.

While Hou did not directly answer the first question, he did state that he would "not touch [with China] on the unification issue during my presidency."

Hou said that things had changed since the administration of former KMT President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who held a historic meeting with Xi in Singapore near the end of his presidency in November 2015.

The meeting between Ma and Xi was the first between political leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since 1949, the year when large-scale fighting in the Chinese Civil War ended.

Then-President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to the press upon their arrival at the meeting venue in Singapore on Nov. 7, 2015. CNA file photo
Then-President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping waves to the press upon their arrival at the meeting venue in Singapore on Nov. 7, 2015. CNA file photo

Hou said that repeating such high-level exchanges was "impossible" due to the deterioration in relations with Beijing under Taiwan's current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

Despite appearing to rule out meeting with Xi, Hou did say that he would seek to resume dialogue with China via existing channels to de-escalate tensions.

In addition to using Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits as semi-official conduits, Hou proposed enhancing economic, religious and academic exchanges with China and using this as a springboard toward high-level official interactions.

Hou added that he held a different view on a number of key issues with Ma, adding that he would not have "unrealistic expectations" of China.

The KMT candidate then reiterated his stance that Taiwan needs to be prepared militarily to serve as strong deterrence so that Taipei could have the leverage to enter negotiations with Beijing.

Hou's remarks came after Ma stirred controversy in an interview with Deutsche Welle published Wednesday, in which he discussed his views on cross-strait relations.

Speaking in English, the 73-year-old Ma noted that unification with China was, constitutionally speaking, a possibility for Taiwan.

Source: DW News

"Unification is something that our constitution says. So, it's actually acceptable to Taiwan, but it has to be done peacefully and through a democratic process," Ma said.

"If that can be done [in such a manner] the chances are people in Taiwan may be interested in accepting that [unification]," he said.

Ma also described the notion Taiwan should spend enough on its military so that it could hold off a Chinese attack until the United States or Japan could assist as "too optimistic."

"No matter how much you defend yourself, you can never fight a war with the mainland. You can never win, they [China] are too large, too much stronger than us," Ma said.

Ma said Taiwan should use nonmilitary means to reduce tensions with China, adding that this was something people on both sides of the strait were in favor of.

"If you've always believed in a strong defense, it's all right. But in that situation [for Taiwan] it would be very dangerous to our people."

Asked whether this displayed a "defeatist" attitude, Ma said deterrence was a challenging endeavor, adding that Taiwan "should not place all our faith in defense."

"We have to use peaceful means," Ma said.

Meanwhile, when asked if Xi was to be trusted, Ma said that as far as cross-strait relations were concerned, "you have to."

Jan. 10: Ma's 'trust' comment about Xi draws rebuke from DPP

Ma's comments, made just three days before Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections, drew a rebuke from the DPP, which accused the former president of a "despicable" attempt to mislead foreign media about the public consensus on cross-strait relations in Taiwan.

At a press conference Wednesday, DPP spokeswoman Tai Wei-shan (戴瑋姍) described Ma's views as a "departure from reality" that differed sharply from those held by the Taiwanese society.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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