by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Dec 3, 2011
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Saturday stressed that he will not discuss unification with China as he sought to ease concerns on his Beijing-friendly policies in the run-up to his reelection bid.
"I will not discuss unification (with China) when in office, I will not seek independence or resort to the use of force," Ma said in the first televised debate ahead of Taiwan's January 14 presidential election.
"This forms a consensus that the majority of people support so I can have a firm footing when negotiating with China," Ma said in response to a question why he appeared closer to Beijing than to the island's opposition party.
Ma, elected in 2008 on a platform of boosting trade and tourism with China, is running for a second four-year term against Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party and independent James Soong.
The race is tight: in a recent November poll the first two candidates were tied with 39 percent of support each, while Soong had nine percent, marking a decline of three percentage points for Ma from October.
In the debate lasting over two hours, Tsai criticised the Ma administration for over-relying on the Chinese market, which she said caused Taiwan to lose its capitals and talents to the mainland and hurt its competitiveness.
"Our sovereignty has been hurt so we need a new leader... to face China in a way neither servile nor overbearing, to uphold our sovereignty to conduct pragmatic negotiations," she said.
Independent James Soong also weighed in on the issue of relations with China: "We don't want to see the use of force with the other side and we want to peacefully co-exist for the prosperity of the future generations," he said.
Soong is considered unlikely to win in the January 14 polls, but observers said he could threaten Ma as he stills commands considerable loyalty among some members of Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) party as a former KMT heavyweight.
Ties between Taiwan and China improved markedly since Ma took office, culminating with the signing of a major trade pact last year.
However, critics have warned that the pact would give the mainland a stronger grip on Taiwan and erode the island's de facto independence.
China has largely refrained from commenting openly on the election, fearing it might backfire, but it is widely believed to prefer Ma's ruling KMT party.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the two sides have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.
Taiwan News at SinoDaily.com
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Top US official makes rare stop in Taiwan
Taipei (AFP) Dec 1, 2011
USAID chief Rajiv Shah on Thursday became the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan since 2006, delighting the island's government but possibly rankling China. "We're pleased to see the visit. As a matter of fact, we've been calling for more exchange of visits by ranking government officials from the two sides," Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesman James Chang told AFP as Shah arrived o ... read more
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