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President Ma meets US senior envoy and former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns

President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of January 18 with US senior envoy and former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. In addition to briefing his visitor on the state of Taiwan-US military and security cooperation as well as economic and trade ties in recent years, the president also expressed hope that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will consider coming to the Office of the President to discuss the details of a proposed DPP-led caretaker cabinet and ensure a smooth transfer of power.
In remarks, President Ma mentioned that John Kirby, Spokesperson for the US Department of State, issued a press statement on January 16 to congratulate Chairperson Tsai, stating that "The United States thanks President Ma Ying-jeou for his efforts to develop a strong partnership with the United States and applauds him for concrete steps he has taken to improve cross-S trait ties in recent years." The president expressed his appreciation for this gesture.
President Ma stated that since taking office in 2008 he has made every effort to strengthen Taiwan-US relations, and that his administration adopted a "low key, no surprises" approach to restore mutual trust at the highest levels. Today, bilateral relations are better than they have ever been since the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) was enacted 37 years ago. In the past eight years, the number of agreements signed by the two sides has increased from 90 to 147. The US has also overtaken Japan to become Taiwan's second-largest trading partner, while Taiwan has vaulted past Saudi Arabia and India to rank as the tenth-largest trading partner of the US. The president stated that the US has sold Taiwan US$20.1 billion worth of arms since he came to office, which is 2.4 times the US$8.4 billion sold to Taiwan during the eight-year tenure of former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and even more than the US$16.2 billion in arms sales made to Taiwan during the 12-year administration of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). In fact, he said, it is the highest amount in history. "It would be fair to say that bilateral security cooperation is now the best it's ever been since the severing of diplomatic ties."
President Ma also mentioned that against the backdrop of stable Taiwan-US relations, the government is working within the framework of the ROC Constitution to maintain the cross-strait status quo defined as "no unification, no independence, and no use of force," and is promoting cross-strait peace 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. The two sides have signed 23 agreements, and there are 120 daily cross-strait flights connecting a total 71 different destinations in Taiwan and the mainland. Residents from the two sides make more than seven million cross-strait trips per year, and the value of cross-strait trade has reached US$154.9 billion. Moreover, the leaders of the two sides met face-to-face last November. "This shows," he said, "that cross-strait ties have been more stable over the past eight years than at any other time in the past 67 years."
The president remarked that the US government basically supports the continued development of cross-strait relations. Last year, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel recognized the progress of cross-strait relations, saying that "developments in Taiwan-US relations over the past few years have been very constructive—and that progress in cross-strait relations had a lot to do with that." In an address delivered at the Brookings Institution last May, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton 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." All of these facts show that Taiwan's relations with the US and mainland China have turned a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle. The US need not face the dilemma of choosing sides in the cross-strait equation. This virtuous cycle, said the president, creates not only mutual benefit for Taiwan and the US, but an unprecedented status quo of peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait. He expressed hope that after he leaves office, this virtuous cycle will continue to grow and that the US will no longer face that kind of dilemma.
Turning to the presidential election, President Ma stated that the election came to a smooth conclusion on January 16, demonstrating the maturity of Taiwan's democracy and the stability of the ROC's constitutional order. After the election results were announced, he immediately called DPP Chairperson Tsai to congratulate her, and to express his sincere hope that her future administration will maintain continued peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait.
During the phone conversation, stated the president, he mentioned to Chairperson Tsai that because the DPP won a majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan election, the legislature has a new mandate from the public. So after careful consideration, to ensure post-election political stability and social harmony while avoiding a standstill in political affairs or government inaction, the president expressed hope that someone supported by a majority of legislators—the new public mandate—will be nominated to fill the post of premier. He also called on Chairperson Tsai to put the interests of the nation first and come to the Office of the President to discuss the matter. However, Chairperson Tsai felt that the formation of a DPP-led cabinet would not be possible under the current provisions of the Constitution. She did not accept his proposal at that time, and it was clear that she had substantial reservations about it. But in order to keep the government running smoothly and continue to promote government policies, the president expressed hope that Chairperson Tsai will give the proposal further consideration, since she has repeatedly stressed the need to respect the new will of the people as reflected in the election results, and "the Legislative Yuan majority represents the new will of the people." Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) was scheduled to convene an extraordinary Executive Yuan meeting that same afternoon to tender a cabinet resignation, said the president, who added: "I still sincerely hope, however, that Chairperson Tsai will give the matter further serious consideration. Before she has done so, I will not accept Premier Mao's proposed cabinet resignation."
President Ma pointed out that the US Department of State, in a congratulatory message issued to Chairperson Tsai after announcement of the election results, stated as follows: "We hope that President Ma's administration and the incoming administration will work constructively to ensure a smooth transition...." President Ma expressed his belief that his constructive suggestions made over the previous two days were completely in line with the hope of the US for post-election political stability, "because there can't be a smooth transition unless you have a cabinet supported by the will of the people."
Deputy Secretary Burns followed with remarks of his own in which he stated that he had made this trip to Taiwan at the request of the US government, which was quite an honor. Noting that the elections were democratic, open, and fair, he stated that the results highlighted once again the fact that Taiwan's democracy is a success story. He pointed out that the elections also demonstrated that Taiwan, as a democratic nation, is a hardy survivor, and he congratulated all the people of Taiwan. In addition, he also thanked President Ma for establishing close cooperative ties with the US. He further stated that the US-Taiwan unofficial relationship has never been better, and added that President Ma deserves much credit for this.
Deputy Secretary Burns also praised President Ma for taking a constructive approach to the conduct of cross-strait relations. At the same time, he congratulated Dr. Tsai Ing-wen upon her election as president, and expressed hope for a chance to further cooperate with her in the future. In addition, he also said that he hoped to develop deeper ties with all of Taiwan's political parties, and that he would continue working to ensure peaceful cross-strait relations.
Former Deputy Secretary Burns was escorted to the Office of the President by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt and AIT Taipei Office Director Kin W. Moy (梅健華).
【Source: Office of the President】