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KMT urges Lai to use inaugural speech to lower tensions with China

05/12/2024 05:41 PM
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President-elect Lai Ching-te (with mic) delivers a speech at a rally in Taipei on Dec. 24, 2023 as the Democratic Progressive Party prepared for the 2024 Taiwan presidential and legislative elections. CNA file photo
President-elect Lai Ching-te (with mic) delivers a speech at a rally in Taipei on Dec. 24, 2023 as the Democratic Progressive Party prepared for the 2024 Taiwan presidential and legislative elections. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) should use his May 20 inaugural address to extend an olive branch to Beijing and ease the "hostile spiral" in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, a senior Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker said Sunday.

"Cross-strait relations are a top priority. Lai Ching-te should show goodwill and [try to] facilitate dialogue" with China, said Shu Yu-zhen (許宇甄), deputy secretary-general of the KMT legislative caucus.

Recent media reports have said the speech's language on China will largely follow the path laid out by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) since 2016, under which Taipei has tried to show "goodwill" to China while also upholding its "commitments" to Taiwan's democracy, sovereignty and national identity.

● Full text of President Tsai's 2024 New Year Day's address

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Shu, however, said Lai should do more in the speech to ease fears that he will pursue a sharply different approach to cross-strait issues, which she claimed was a concern of both China and the United States.

This is especially true given that Lai has previously referred to himself a "pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence," she said.

As a first policy step, Shu urged Lai to end a COVID-era ban on Taiwanese travel agencies organizing group tours to China, with the goal of allowing cross-strait travel to "return to normal."

More broadly, Lai should seek "a suitable plan" to gradually resume bilateral contacts between Taipei and Beijing, in order to ease the "hostile spiral" in the two sides' relations and avert a possible war, Shu said.

Since Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2016, formal communications between China and Taiwan have been largely frozen, due to Beijing conditioning them on the DPP's acceptance of the "1992 consensus."

The 1992 consensus is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 by the then KMT government of Taiwan and the Chinese government. It has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as an acknowledgement by both sides that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

Beijing, however, has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation.

The DPP has never acknowledged the "1992 consensus," arguing that Beijing does not recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that acceptance of the consensus would imply agreement with China's claim over Taiwan.

(By Wang Cheng-chung, Kuo Chien-shen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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