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Taiwan: signing of peace accord with China not a priority

Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan’s Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, said December 5 that judging from the statement and general opinion from the recent 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), his assessment is that Beijing will increase pressure on Taiwan to start political dialogue, especially on a “peace accord” between the two sides.

Quoted in the United Daily News, he said that Taiwan’s government has its own thinking on negotiating a peace accord, adding that “the cross-strait peace agreement will be different from a truce, or a non-aggression pact,” but both sides should work hard to identify the core common ground before framing the agreement.

Wang said, in terms of international practice, the majority of peace accords are truces or non-aggression treaties, but this no longer applies to current cross-strait relations. After all, there are no longer military conflicts and confrontation between the two sides.

Specifically on a cross-strait peace accord, said Minister Wang, mainland China should put forward more substantive content, otherwise it would be difficult to have a discussion. He stressed that the signing of a peace accord is not a priority of Taiwanese government policy.

He pointed out, “If mainland China wants to talk about the agreement of unification, such a topic is not acceptable to Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion currently.” Wang made the remarks as he delivered a special report to the ruling Kuomintang’s Central Standing Committee on the CCP’s 18th National Congress and its implications for cross-strait relations.

On December 10, President Ma Ying-jeou stressed in an interview with the Commercial Times that it would be beneficial to both sides when Taiwan and the mainland take a pragmatic approach to a cross-strait peace agreement. However, Beijing should first make a substantive proposal towards such a peace agreement, describing what kind of function a peace accord would serve, and whether this would make cross-strait interactions better than at present.

He said that international scholars are highly concerned about the two sides’ negotiating a peace accord. He often asked them: “What content do you think that a cross-strait peace accord should have?”

President Ma said that political consultation is not a priority for his government, adding that any critical development of relations with the mainland cannot be achieved overnight. The direction of his government’s current work is to build an expandable and durable framework for relations with the mainland, which can be the basis on which to promote future peaceful cross-strait development no matter who takes control of the government.

President Ma proposes cross strait peace accord

In the October 17 press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou announced that his administration is preparing to initiate a peace accord with mainland China under three preconditions – necessity of the nation, public opinion support and under the supervision of the national Legislature. He stressed that such a peace agreement would not take place without the passing of a referendum and is not set to any timeline. If a referendum did not pass, then the peace pact would not be signed.

After being questioned by Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its presidential nominee, President Ma assured the nation that the initiation of such a peace agreement is only possible with the consensus of the people and after the accumulation of enough confidence between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Furthermore, the content of the pact must come under the constitutional framework of the Republic of China on Taiwan, and maintain the current status of “no unification, no independence and no war.”

In 2003, former President Chen Shui-bian talked about the necessity of establishing a “peace and stability framework agreement for cross-strait interaction,” and proposed the “one principle, four issues” agreement, in which the principle is peace, while the four issues are the establishment of a negotiation mechanism, exchanges based on equality and reciprocity, establishment of a political relationship, and prevention of military conflict. When Chen brought up the idea of a peace accord, Tsai was serving as his minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, the main architect of the proposal, President Ma stressed in the press conference.

According to the referendum law, a required minimum of 50 percent national registered voter turnout is needed and another 50 percent of valid votes cast are required to pass a referendum. Since its passing in 2004, voters have gone to the polls three times in six referendums. All have failed to pass due to insufficient voter turnout.

With the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for January 14, 2012, King Pu-tsung, President Ma’s top aide, told Commonwealth magazine that the president is especially good at “promoting cross strait relations and in overcoming the economic crisis.” Internationally, President Ma’s strengths rest on his stable and reliable character.

With regards to President Ma’s handling of controversial issues, Chen Shang-chih, a professor at National Chung Cheng University, said, the accord is design “to pave the way for Ma’s historical legacy.” Since direct presidential elections began in Taiwan in 1996, former President Lee Teng-hui has been credited with ushering in the democratization of Taiwan, and former President Chen heralded for the peaceful transition of one political party to another. Prof. Chen believes that President Ma’s legacy will be decided on “how far the cross strait relationship advances.”

As for the question of whether President Ma would visit China after his second term, King said that President Ma has publicly stated that he will visit any country, including mainland China, in the capacity of president of the Republic of China on Taiwan. However, when asked, “Do you think Beijing would agree with his title?” King replied, “I don’t think so.”