Go TO Content

President Ma meets US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matthew J. Matthews(excerpt: cross-strait relations)

Turning to the subject of Taiwan's active participation in the process of regional economic integration, President Ma noted that Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China in 2010 and the Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement (BIA) with Japan in 2011. And in 2013 we resumed talks under the TIFA with the US and also signed the ANZTEC economic cooperation agreement with New Zealand and the ASTEP economic partnership agreement with Singapore. The ANZTEC and ASTEP agreements represent the first free-trade pacts that Taiwan has ever signed with developed nations or major trading partners. Taiwan is very interested in taking part in second-round negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel once stated that the US will seriously consider Taiwan's candidacy for TPP membership. Should Taiwan accede, said the president, it will be the sixth largest trading nation in the TPP.
Turning to cross-strait relations, the president stated that since taking office in 2008 his administration has consistently sought, under the framework of the ROC Constitution, to maintain the status quo of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" in the Taiwan Strait, and to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait ties under the 1992 Consensus, whereby each side acknowledges the existence of "one China" but maintains its own interpretation of what that means. He noted that the latest opinion polls show 88% popular support in Taiwan for the "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" status quo, and 61% support for the 1992 Consensus as defined above. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have signed 23 agreements to date, and the ministers in charge of cross-strait affairs from both sides have held seven formal meetings where both sides used their official titles. This demonstrates that cross-strait relations are the most stable and peaceful they have been in the past 66 years.
President Ma stressed that because of an existing, stable foundation of mutual trust, he was able to meet on November 7 with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore to exchange opinions on consolidating cross-strait peace and maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. The meeting was significant for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations in four respects. First, it marked the first cross-strait leaders' meeting since Taiwan and mainland China came under separate rule 66 years ago, demonstrating to the world that the two sides have established a mechanism to resolve disputes in a peaceful manner. This is very good news for the international community. Noting that some have said the significance of his meeting with Mr. Xi does not go beyond the symbolic, the president said "that observation is incorrect."
Second, President Ma pointed out that this was the first time since the two sides reached the 1992 Consensus that the leaders of the two sides have met to reconfirm the shared political basis of cross-strait ties. And during the meeting itself, the president reiterated the content of the 1992 Consensus to Mr. Xi as follows: "Both sides of the Taiwan Strait insist on the 'one China' principle, and each side can express its interpretation verbally." This is the 1992 Consensus of "one China, separate interpretations." Our side stated that the interpretation does not involve "two Chinas," "one China and one Taiwan," or "Taiwan independence," as the Republic of China Constitution does not allow it. This was actually the first time that the leader of Taiwan ever had the opportunity to talk to the mainland Chinese leader about the original meaning of the 1992 Consensus and how it relates to the ROC Constitution. In a recent opinion poll, said the president, 61.6% of respondents expressed agreement with the 1992 Consensus of "one China, respective interpretations" that he expounded on at the Ma-Xi meeting, which shows that this idea is supported by a majority in Taiwan.
Third, President Ma said the meeting helped build a bridge between the two sides, establishing a new model whereby the two leaders can meet under conditions of equality and dignity. This meeting was the first step, and future leaders will be able to follow suit regardless which party they belong to, so as to maintain the current level of cross-strait interaction and mutually beneficial ties. "This status quo includes the 1992 Consensus," said the president. And fourth, the president noted that the meeting also marked the first time Taiwan could directly convey to the leader of mainland China its concerns about the mainland's military deployment against Taiwan, as well as Taiwan's breathing room on the international stage, and demand that the mainland show goodwill through concrete actions, because the people of Taiwan are very concerned about issues affecting their dignity and security.
These important indications, said the president, have both helped to consolidate cross-strait relations, and at the same time created conditions conducive to greater stability and depth in Taiwan-US ties. US President Barak Obama has issued repeated expressions of support, some dating back to a long time ago, for continued progress in cross-strait relations in a manner that ensures dignity and respect, and "this has been a great encouragement for us." He added that observers who kept saying that the US would not support the Ma-Xi meeting have been completely wrong. As a matter of fact, he said, just one hour after his charter flight returned from Singapore to Taiwan, the US Department of State issued a statement of official welcome and support for the talks. Four members of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus also issued a statement on behalf of the 186 caucus members endorsing the Ma-Xi meeting, and international media has published over 1,100 articles on it, the tone of which has been generally favorable. The Economist even opined that the meeting constituted the mainland's biggest concession to Taiwan on any core issue in 30 years. In addition, Japan, the European Union, Russia, Korea, and Singapore have all expressed positive views regarding the Ma-Xi meeting, and Indonesia (an ASEAN member) has even offered to host the next cross-strait leaders' meeting. All these developments, said the president, are very gratifying.
The president mentioned that following his meeting with Mr. Xi, he met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who promptly posted a description of the meeting on Facebook. "And I posted on his Facebook page," said President Ma, adding that the way the leaders of Taiwan and Singapore have exchanged views on Facebook is a rarity in the international community. President Ma extended sincere gratitude for the concern and support that Prime Minister Lee and his father Lee Kuan Yew, founding Prime Minister and Senior Advisor of Singapore, have shown for cross-strait relations over the past two decades and more, and he pointed out that the Lees have played an important intermediary role from the time of the 1993 Koo-Wang Talks through the Ma-Xi meeting of 2015. "If it hadn't been for the efforts of the Lees," said the president, "the two meetings would never have taken place."
Commenting on regional peace, President Ma mentioned that the East China Sea Peace Initiative which he proposed led to the signing of a Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement. As a result, the two sides have seen virtually no conflicts in the East China Sea in the past two years, and catches have greatly increased. At the same time, in order to resolve maritime disputes, Taiwan and the Philippines have recently signed the Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters. The agreement includes three important clauses that call for "avoiding the use of violence or unnecessary force," "establishing an emergency notification system," and "establishing a prompt release mechanism." This marks one of the most important milestones in Taiwan-Philippine relations over the past several decades, and is the first breakthrough to come in the wake of President Ma's May 2015 proposal of the South China Sea Peace Initiative. In addition, the president mentioned that this past June he published an op-ed piece on the South China Sea Peace Initiative in The Wall Street Journal so that the world might better understand that the ROC is determined to be a peacemaker and to work for regional peace and stability.
【Source: Office of the President】