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Exchange of offices with Beijing a 'political' issue: Ma

ROC Central News Agency

2013/10/18 19:23:44

Taipei, Oct. 18 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that the exchange of representative offices between Taiwan and mainland China is political in nature, apparently responding to Chinese criticism that Taiwan has avoided political issues in pursuing relations between the two sides.

'If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait sign an agreement on the exchange of offices, it would be political in nature,' Ma said while meeting with a delegation from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), a U.S. think tank.

The delegation was led by NCAFP President George D. Schwab and consisted of scholars specializing in cross-Taiwan Strait affairs and former U.S. officials, many of whom held key government posts before retiring.

Taiwan has been in talks with China on an agreement that would lay the groundwork for the two sides to exchange representative offices on a reciprocal basis, Ma told his guests.

If the agreement is signed, it would be the 20th one the two sides have clinched over the past five-plus years.

'It would also be the one that carries most political significance,' Ma said.

The president's remarks were seen as a response to recent statements by Chinese officials hinting that Taiwan and China cannot put off addressing their political differences forever.

The latest message was delivered by Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, at a forum in Shanghai Oct. 11. He said that sidestepping political issues in favor of economic issues was 'unsustainable.'

Touching on the just-concluded leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali, Ma said Taiwan's envoy, former Vice President Vincent Siew, had important talks with both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Xi Jinping of China.

Ma said Siew and Kerry 'exchanged views on Taiwan's bid to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),' which he believed would have a positive effect on Taiwan's membership bid.

Of the talks between Siew and Xi, Ma said such high-level contact was critical for further improvement of cross-strait ties.

Because of China's objections, Taiwan's president has been barred from attending the annual APEC summit in person and has had to name a proxy each year.

Also of significance in Indonesia, the president said, was a brief encounter between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi and his Chinese counterpart, Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun.

'Their meeting and their calling each other by their official titles were all firsts in the development of cross-strait relations,' Ma said.

Turning to Taiwan-U.S. relations, Ma said bilateral cooperation on economic and security fronts have been moving forward steadily.

With the U.S. beef import issue resolved last year, the two sides resumed talks under their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in March this year, Ma said, adding that security cooperation is also moving on a normal track.

He also recounted his administration's success in signing a fishery accord with Japan in April, which he said has helped ease regional tensions over territorial disputes.

Meanwhile, he said, the peaceful solution to a dispute with the Philippines in August over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino Coast Guard personnel further proved that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a peace-loving country.

All these developments are in the interests of the United States, Ma said, because both Japan and the Philippines are important U.S. allies.

(By Lee Shu-hua and Sofia Wu)

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