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President Ma meets participants attending International Conference on Asia-Pacific in Transition

President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of November 6 with the participants attending the International Conference on Asia-Pacific in Transition. In addition to briefing them on progress and achievements in cross-strait relations in recent years, the president reiterated that the ROC is actively playing the roles of "peacemaker" and "provider of humanitarian aid" in the international community.
In remarks, the president said that since taking office in 2008 his domestic agenda has focused on creating a free and prosperous Taiwan, while his external objectives have emphasized "a peaceful Taiwan Strait and friendly international relations," creating a "win-win-win" situation for the ROC. And with only six months remaining before his term ends, President Ma said that, "In general, we've made appreciable progress on all the objectives we set."
Commenting on cross-strait relations, the president pointed out that over the past seven years 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. As a result, the Taiwan Strait has been transformed from a flashpoint of conflict into an avenue of peace. In an address delivered in May of this year, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton stressed how good Taiwan-US relations are, and emphasized that "the US-Taiwan 'unofficial relationship' has never been better.… And it must be said that an important ingredient of the close cooperation in recent years has been the stable management of cross-strait ties."
President Ma further stated that over the past seven years the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have signed 23 agreements. Mainland Chinese visitors have made over 14 million trips to Taiwan, almost four million of them in the past year alone. The number of mainland students studying in Taiwan also jumped from 823 seven years ago to over 35,000 as of the end of this past September, a 42-fold increase. Since the APEC meetings in October of 2013, the ministers in charge of cross-strait affairs from both sides of the Strait have held six formal meetings where both sides used their official titles. In other words, the institutionalization of a cross-strait channel for negotiations has "moved the discussions, step by step, from the Straits Exchange Foundation to the Mainland Affairs Council. And tomorrow, those discussions will be between the leaders of the two sides," he said. This is a gradual process, but has moved forward in an extremely steady manner, showing that over the past 66 years, cross-strait relations have never been as stable and peaceful as they are now, said the president.
President Ma told the guests that he will travel to Singapore on November 7 to meet face-to-face with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平), exchanging opinions on consolidating peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In fact, "While there are, indeed, fewer problems between the two sides, there are still many issues to address," he stated.
In discussing the upcoming Ma-Xi meeting, President Ma stated that the international response has generally been positive since the meeting was announced three days ago. The US White House, State Department, former Chairman of the Board and Managing Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Richard Bush, and former Director of AIT's Taipei Office Douglas Paal, for instance, have all come out in support of the meeting. In addition, Japan, the European Union, and Australia have also welcomed this development, the president said.
Over the past seven years, the ROC has been devoted to playing the roles of "peacemaker" and "provider of humanitarian aid" in the international community, the president explained, further noting that a policy of "viable diplomacy" has replaced the previous "scorched earth diplomacy" and "checkbook diplomacy" policies. This change in policy has been applauded by the ROC's friends and allies, as well as the broader international community. The number of countries or jurisdictions that now provide ROC nationals with visa-free courtesies or landing visas now stands at 153, 99 more than the 54 that provided such privileges prior to his taking office. This, the president indicated, is an example of the effectiveness of the "viable diplomacy" policy.
In international relations, President Ma noted that after an absence of 38 years, starting in 2009 the ROC returned to the World Health Assembly. In addition, Taiwan in 2013 was invited to attend the 38th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization as a "special guest," marking its return to that organization after a lapse of 42 years. These concrete achievements demonstrate the improvement in the ROC's bilateral and multilateral relations. We also actively provide humanitarian aid wherever major disasters occur, including a major earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 and the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Our government has donated 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment to medical workers treating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and US$1 million to the CDC Foundation in the United States as part of the international Ebola response fund.
The president then noted that in 2012 he introduced the East China Sea Peace Initiative, and the very next year Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement which effectively resolved a 40-year fishing dispute. He said that in the year prior to the signing of the fisheries agreement, the two sides had 17 fishing disputes. Currently, there are none, and the fishermen of both countries are enjoying bigger catches. This, the president remarked, is a concrete realization of the concept that "although sovereignty over national territory cannot be compromised, natural resources can be shared."
President Ma said that in May of this year he unveiled the South China Sea Peace Initiative in an effort to duplicate the ROC's experience promoting peace and cooperation in the East China Sea. Besides emphasizing that islets in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters have traditionally been territory and seas belonging to the ROC, he urged all parties to guarantee the rights of navigation and overflight pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and resolve disputes in a peaceful manner. The president hopes that the international community is well aware that the ROC is not a "troublemaker," but a "peacemaker,” an asset rather than a liability. This is an important line of defense in cross-strait relations, he said.
The delegation included Edward Friedman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin; Lowell Dittmer, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkley; David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science and Director of the China Policy Program at the George Washington University; Clayton Dube, Professor of the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California; Zhe Sun (孫哲), Professor of the Center for US-China Relations at the Tsinghua University in Beijing; Go Ito, Professor of the School of Political Science and Economics at Japan's Meiji University; Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Professor of Government and International Studies at the Hong Kong Baptist University; Sung Chull Kim, Professor of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at the Seoul National University; Jianwei Wang (王建偉), Professor of Government and Public Administration at the University of Macau; and Chien-min Chao (趙建民), Professor of the Graduate Institute of Mainland China Studies and Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Thoughts at Taiwan's Chinese Culture University.
【Source: Office of the President】