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Taiwan has not sidestepped cross-strait political issues: Ma

ROC Central News Agency

2013/10/25 17:10:15

Taipei, Oct. 25 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou has said in an interview with an American newspaper that his administration has not deliberately avoided political talks with mainland China and has been willing to discuss any pressing issue.

'It is not that we avoid touching the political issues and pass them on generation to generation,' Ma told the Washington Post in Taipei on Thursday.

In fact, Ma said, his administration is 'willing to discuss any issue as long as it is an urgent one.

Ma was responding to Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent statement that a final resolution on Taiwan's status must be reached and that the island's political estrangement from mainland China 'cannot be passed on from generation to generation.'

Ma said he has done a lot to improve relations with China since assuming office five years ago.

While some of the topics addressed by the two sides during that span were economic in nature, the agenda has also included political issues or subjects in other fields, Ma said.

The guiding principle, the president said, has been to deal with the easiest and most pressing issues first, such as economic relations, rather than taking up more difficult political questions.

Xi told Taiwan's former Vice President Vincent Siew on the sidelines of an annual leaders' summit of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC) forum held in Indonesia early this month that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should not sidestep political issues forever.

Ma stressed, however, that Taiwan is still far away from being ready to engage in detailed political talks with mainland China as a 'referendum and clear public consensus in Taiwan are needed before military talks and discussion of a peace accord can begin,' the paper said.

Likewise, the paper said, Ma has ruled out a direct meeting with Xi unless there is both an urgent need by Taiwan and public support for it.

In the interview, Ma also said he wanted to further improve ties with mainland China by having the two sides establish representative offices in each other's capital and relaxing outdated rules covering the interaction of people and businesses in Taiwan and China, according to the paper.

Meanwhile, Ma rebutted criticism that he is giving up too much in exchange for better economic relations with Taiwan's former political foe.

'They (critics) said we are selling out Taiwan and that we lost something, but they never say what exactly we have lost,' Ma was quoted as saying.

He said he has not conceded anything of substance to China in pursuit of economic cooperation during the past five years but rather has freed Taiwan from a 'vicious cycle' of provocation, the paper said.

'Now it has changed into a virtuous circle,' Ma was quoted as saying by the paper, arguing that improved cross-strait ties have given Taiwan more maneuvering room in the international community and helped its claims for autonomy.

Ma cited Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly since 2009 and its attendance at an assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations specialized agency, last month as signs of its growing participation.

On the economic front, Ma noted, Taiwan is working on economic agreements with Singapore and New Zealand.

In an article posted on its official website Thursday (U.S. time), the Washington Post said Ma has suffered from some of the lowest approval ratings of any leader in Taiwan's history.

'Some of his public battering is attributed to unpopular domestic actions, such as overhauls of electricity pricing and pensions. There has also been a power struggle within his Nationalist Party involving alleged favor-peddling by Taiwan's legislative speaker, wiretapping and a failed attempt by Ma to oust the speaker,' the paper said.

Despite those setbacks, the paper said, Ma has expressed no desire to change his cross-strait goals or his domestic policies.

'We have made progress in every area,' Ma said. 'Of course, not everyone understands this. But we have done what needed to be done, and we will keep doing so until the very end.'

(By Tony Liao, Lee Shu-hua and Sofia Wu)

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