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President Ma attends reception to mark 20th anniversary of Koo-Wang talks

On the morning of April 29, President Ma Ying-jeou visited the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) to attend a reception marking the 20th anniversary of the Koo-Wang talks, a series of discussions between then-SEF Chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) and then-Chairman Wang Daohan (汪道涵) of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) that began in Singapore in 1993. In addition to praising Mr. Koo and Mr. Wang for their contributions to peace in the Taiwan Strait, the president stressed that our government policy on mainland China and cross-strait relations must be carried out under the framework of the ROC Constitution and the principle of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people." At the same time, he called for expansion and deepening of cross-strait relations in a wide variety of fields, including economic and trade ties, to forge greater mutual understanding and more wide-ranging cooperation.

In remarks, the president stated that on the same day 20 years earlier, SEF Chairman Koo and ARATS Chairman Wang met in a spirit of "negotiating as equals, maintaining reciprocity, and creating a win-win situation." The two signed four agreements in Singapore: the Agreement on the Use and Verification of Certificates of Authentication Across the Taiwan Straits; the Agreement on Matters Concerning Inquiry and Compensation for [Lost] Registered Mail Across the Taiwan Straits; the Agreement on the System for Contacts and Meetings between SEF and ARATS; and the Joint Agreement of the Koo-Wang Talks. While the focus of these agreements was limited to technical matters, the president remarked, the talks nevertheless marked the first time that the two governments had authorized formal negotiations since the two sides of the Taiwan Strait came under the rule of separate governments in 1949. The significance of these talks attracted the attention of the world, and marked an important milestone by setting the foundation for peace between the two sides, he added.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, President Ma stated, set in motion the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In 1990, he said, the two Germanys reunified and the Cold War came to an end. In 1989 in mainland China, however, some 10 years after authorities there began instituting reform and opening up, the Tiananmen Incident took place. But the impetus toward reform could not be stopped. In Taiwan, under the leadership of then-ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), martial law had already been lifted in 1986, following which democratic reforms were instituted, including lifting of the ban on establishing political parties, newspapers, and magazines. President Ma pointed out that in 1987 Taiwan began allowing the public to go back to mainland China to visit relatives, which marked an end to the "three nos" policy on cross-strait ties, namely "no contact, no negotiation, and no compromise." Cross-strait relations that had been frozen for 40 years began to thaw, he commented.

The president mentioned that in August 1988 the Executive Yuan established the Mainland Affairs Task Force to coordinate the handling of mainland affairs. This body was formally upgraded into the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in 1991, he said. At that time, the newly elected Second National Assembly had begun to amend the Constitution. Then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) announced the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion, which meant that the Chinese communists would no longer be referred to as a "rebel group." The National Assembly then abolished the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion, thus returning Taiwan to constitutional normalcy, and adopted a set of Additional Articles of the Constitution "to meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification." The Additional Articles set forth a "free area" and a "mainland area" as the bases for interaction between the two sides, and authorize the government to enact special laws to govern the cross-strait relationship. On the basis of the Additional Articles, said the president, the MAC drafted the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area to govern cross-strait relations prior to national unification. In 1991, he mentioned, Taiwan established the SEF and mainland China founded the ARATS, thus completing a major change in ties between the two sides.

President Ma mentioned that in November 1992 the two sides reached the so-called "1992 Consensus," whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China" but maintains its own interpretation of what that means. This set the stage for a subsequent round of Koo-Wang talks in April 1993 that marked the commencement of a new era in which the two sides would "use negotiation to alleviate confrontation, and replace conflict with reconciliation." The president stated that he first became involved in cross-strait affairs in 1987. In May 2006, 13 years after the Koo-Wang talks, he visited Singapore in his capacity as Kuomintang chairman and Taipei City mayor. While he was there, special arrangements were made for him to visit the NOL Building, the site of the first round of Koo-Wang talks. President Ma remarked that at that time the atmosphere between the two sides was quite tense, in contrast to the harmony during the first Koo-Wang talks, which made quite a deep impression on him. The president mentioned that the most valuable asset left to us by the Koo-Wang talks iss the approach of "engaging in technical negotiations and seeking common ground while respecting differences."

President Ma furthermore explained that despite achievement of the "1992 Consensus" and the holding of talks between Mr. Koo and Mr. Wang in 1993, friction began to arise between the leaders of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait following the Thousand Island Lake Incident in 1994. In 1995, he said, mainland China unilaterally declared a halt to negotiations between the SEF and the ARATS, saying that Taiwan had violated the consensus. Then during the 1996 presidential election campaign here, mainland China resorted to verbal threats and military scare tactics, launching missiles into the seas around Taiwan. At that time, the United States even dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups to cruise in the waters off Taiwan, he said. Clouds of war hung over the Taiwan Strait, and the situation was extremely explosive. It was not until 1998, after the two sides expressed their intention to ease the tense relations, that Mr. Koo and Mr. Wang held discussions in Shanghai. Mr. Wang at that time pledged to visit Taiwan the following year, the president said. Unfortunately, on the eve of his visit, high-ranking officials here suddenly announced the so-called "two-state theory." Mr. Wang subsequently cancelled his trip and never did realize his desire to visit Taiwan, he commented.

President Ma also mentioned that when the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000, it denied the existence of the "1992 Consensus" and instead adopted the "one country on each side" stance while calling for Taiwan to rejoin the United Nations. These policies, the president noted, once again caused cross-strait tensions to rise. Mainland China, he commented, even adopted the Anti-Separation Law. The two sides had once again come to the brink of conflict, the president said, adding that it was not until 2008 when governing power changed hands again that there was a chance to change the situation.

President Ma reiterated that after he took office in 2008, he immediately declared that the government would, under the framework of the ROC Constitution, maintain the status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" in the Taiwan Strait, and promote the resumption of cross-strait relations under the "1992 Consensus." Over the past five years, he said, former SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and former ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) have held eight rounds of negotiations, which have yielded 18 cross-strait agreements covering such matters as: direct transportation, postal, and trade links; tourism; food safety; health and medicine; fishermen; quarantine; joint combating of crime; economic cooperation; intellectual property protection; financial supervision; currency settlement; reporting of nuclear incidents; and investment protection. The president mentioned that the number of scheduled weekly flights between the two sides has increased from zero to 616, with airlines serving nearly 50 airports on either side of the Taiwan Strait, which has created unprecedented conveniences for travelers. Meanwhile, the number of mainland Chinese tourists to Taiwan has already surpassed 7 million, which has played an important role in bolstering Taiwan's tourism industry. President Ma also said that cross-strait cooperation in combating crime has helped to net over 4,700 criminals engaged in scam operations, thereby reducing the number of scam crimes by 20,000 and alleviating some three-quarters of the losses that could have been inflicted (which comes to roughly NT$14 billion). Most recently, the president stated, two suspects who had placed bombs on one of Taiwan's high-speed trains were apprehended in mainland China and speedily returned to Taiwan thanks to cooperation in this respect. The president also pointed out that people have been infected by the H7N9 strain of avian flu in mainland China and that authorities here have been kept updated by their mainland counterparts on the situation there. He said that mainland China recently has even provided samples of the virus so that a vaccine can be manufactured here. Cooperation between the two sides has become extremely close in this area, he commented.

President Ma remarked that the improvement in cross-strait relations has been well received by other nations, and has improved Taiwan's relations with the international community. For instance, he said, Taiwan and Japan have signed a Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement and a fisheries agreement, whereas nothing of the sort had previously been achieved in the 40 years since diplomatic ties were severed. As for relations between Taiwan and the United States, he noted, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described Taiwan as an important security and economic partner of the United States. Furthermore, Taiwan on November 1 last year formally became the 37th member of the US Visa Waiver Program and the only one with which the United States does not maintain formal diplomatic relations. President Ma also pointed out that the European Union has not only supported participation for Taiwan in the World Health Assembly and other international organizations, but also was one of the first areas to provide visa-free courtesies to ROC nationals, which sparked a move by other countries to follow suit. The president noted that 132 jurisdictions now provide visa-free courtesies or landing visas to ROC nationals, which is a milestone in the diplomatic history of the ROC.

With respect to cross-strait economic, trade, and cultural ties, President Ma noted, negotiations on a cross-strait agreement on trade in services are nearing completion and a pact on trade in goods is also in the works. Both of these agreements will be extensions of the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed three years ago, he said, commenting that this shows the two sides are moving toward their objective of realizing free trade. The president mentioned that three years ago the two sides signed the Cross-Strait Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Cooperation, which has enabled cross-strait cultural ties to flourish. He expressed confidence that there will be further strengthening in such ties once the agreement on trade in services is finalized.

President Ma then discussed mainland Chinese students and tourists coming to Taiwan. He mentioned that over 17,000 mainland Chinese students are studying here, and the government here now recognizes diplomas from 111 mainland Chinese academic institutions, compared with 41 in the past. This coming autumn, he noted, Taiwan will begin allowing graduates from mainland technical colleges to come here to continue their studies at two-year technical institutes. The most important significance of mainland students coming to study here is that young people on both sides will forge friendships at an early age, which will help lay a lasting foundation for the development of cross-strait peace. In addition, he pointed out, since over 7 million visits are made between the two sides each year, Taiwan hopes that each side will establish representative offices in the other jurisdiction as soon as possible to provide timely and efficient assistance to cross-strait travelers. Furthermore, so long as national security is not compromised, the government here intends to carry out a comprehensive review and subsequent amendment of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area with an eye to better safeguarding human rights and boosting efficiency. This effort will enable cross-strait relations to move forward in a steadier manner, he said.

President Ma emphasized that the government is efforts to promote its mainland policy and cross-strait relations must be carried out under the framework of the ROC Constitution and in line with the principle of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people." In addition, the priority of issues for the two sides to address would be "pressing matters before less pressing ones, easy matters before difficult ones, and economic matters before political ones," he said. Both at home and abroad, Taiwan will not promote "two Chinas," "one China, one Taiwan," or "Taiwan independence," the president emphasized. The peaceful and mutually beneficial interaction between the two sides over the past five years has created a positive model for East Asia and the world in the use of peaceful means to resolve differences, he noted. These results have not come easy, the president added, saying that we should cherish them and of course work to continue them.

Looking to the future, the president expressed hope that peace and prosperity between the two sides can continue to be promoted on the basis of the "1992 Consensus," whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China" but maintains its own interpretation of what that means. At the same time, he said, in working to expand and deepen the relationship in such areas as economic and trade ties, culture, technology, environmental protection, society, rule of law, and human rights, he intends to stick to a policy of "mutual non-recognition of sovereignty, and mutual non-denial of governing authority," the president said. This, he remarked, will promote greater understanding and cooperation among the people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Among those attending the activity were Presidential Senior Advisors Cecilia Y. Koo (辜嚴倬雲) and Chiang Pin-kung, Secretary-General to the President Timothy Chin-Tien Yang (楊進添), National Security Council Secretary-General Jason C. Yuan (袁健生), Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-Chi (王郁琦), SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森), and Mr. Wang Zhizhong (汪致重), son of former ARATS Chairman Wang Daohan.

【Source: Office of the President】