Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taiwan Candidate Would Seek Peace Pact With Beijing



Taiwan Candidate Would Seek Peace Pact With Beijing


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said that if elected, his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration would seek a “peace agreement” with China, along with cross-strait military confidence-building measures.

Giving a keynote speech at a Jan. 16 conference on such measures here, Ma said his administration would engage the mainland in negotiations over three issues.

“First is the normalization of our economic relations. Meaning: to have a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement signed, which will cover a wide variety of economic issues,” Ma said.

“The second one is about the peace agreement, which will terminate the state of hostilities across the Taiwan Strait, which could last for 30 or 50 years, and which will include, critically, the confidence-building measures, particularly in the military field.

“And the last one … is about Taiwan’s international space,” he said. “Looking from broader terms, there is no reason for mainland China to further squeeze or suffocate Taiwan in the international community. We are not threatening them in terms of legitimacy or competing over the ruler of China ... I think that we should really sit down and think about what should be the future mode of cross-Strait relations on the diplomatic front.”

In March 22 polls, Ma and his Beijing-friendly KMT party will try to retake the presidency it lost in 2000 to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose candidate this year is Frank Hsieh.

In the Jan. 12 legislative election, the KMT won a majority of seats, 81 to the DPP’s 27, leading President Chen Shui-bian to call it “the worst setback in the history of the DPP.”

The conference, “Confidence-Building Measures: Successful Cases and Implications for the Taiwan Strait,” was hosted by the New Taiwanese Cultural Foundation with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Submitted papers included a range of scenarios and mechanisms to foster cross-strait security.

Three No’s

Ma said his administration would “pursue a policy of ‘three no’s’”: no negotiations for unification, no pursuit of de jure independence, and no use of force by either side of the Taiwan Strait.

Ma believes Beijing will welcome change “because it has shifted its emphasis from ‘promoting of unification’ to ‘prevention of independence’ for some years and any alternative is most likely to fail in the near future. With ‘three no’s’ Beijing could rebuild its relationship with Taipei, remove the thorniest problems from its relations with the U.S., and refocus its resources on other more pressing tasks,” Ma said.

Over the last eight years, the DPP-controlled presidency has aggravated Beijing and Washington with referendums on membership to the United Nations and moves that have been interpreted as a shift toward de jure independence. Beijing has threatened to use military force to stop any change in the status quo. The United States has pledged to defend Taiwan but has also said any change in the status quo on Chen’s part would negate those promises.

Hsu Szue-Chin, executive director of the Center for China Studies at National Taiwan University, said at the conference there has been a reversal in the way the United States deals with Taiwan.

“Whereas Washington threw its weight behind Taipei to stand up to Beijing’s coercive diplomacy back then [1995-96 Taiwan Strait missile crisis], it has nonetheless acted differently in recent years by putting growing pressure on Taipei for fear of the latter’s defiance to Beijing,” Hsu said.

The Chen administration has made peace overtures to China, but Beijing has ignored them. These include a proposal for a buffer zone in the Taiwan Strait and a hotline.

Instead, China has increased the number of short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan from a few hundred in 1997 to more than 1,000 today. China’s Air Force has also been more aggressive with more sorties along the center line of the Taiwan Strait.

Since Chen won the presidency in 2000, China has been in discussions with the KMT and People’s First Party and patiently waited for a return to a KMT-controlled government. In a paper presented by Bonnie Glaser, senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Beijing has indicated a willingness to pursue confidence-building measures under the right conditions.

“If the KMT returns to power in Taiwan, China has indicated that it is willing to proceed to implement cross-strait military [confidence-building measures] as part of a broader peace and stability accord,” she said. “Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed in communiqués reached in April 29, 2005, with then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan and on May 12, 2005, with People’s First Party Chairman James Soong to jointly promote the formal end of the state of hostility across the Taiwan Strait, to reach a future peace accord and to establish a mechanism of military mutual trust.”

She said such measures are also part of Beijing’s strategy to isolate pro-independence forces and gather interest groups in Taiwan that favor closer ties with the mainland.

Glaser noted Taiwan’s military has already created unilateral rules of engagement (ROE) intended to reduce the chance of an accidental conflict: “Taiwan’s ROEs require that ROC [Republic of China, or Taiwan] pilots take the first shot and suffer the first fatality. If a Taiwan fighter is fired upon, the pilot cannot return fire before receiving authorization from the minister of defense.”

Improved relations across the Taiwan Strait and political pressure from Beijing could make it difficult for the United States to justify future arms sales to Taipei. The KMT may also forgo future U.S. arms requests to placate Beijing.

“KMT logic is that better relations with China are our best security, i.e., relying on the goodwill of our enemies is better than ‘wasting’ money on weapons,” said Hsiao Bi-khim, former DPP legislator and former adviser to Chen. “I believe such an argument will go on in the legislature. Sad day for Taiwan.”

A former DPP official said, “I suspect the missile defense effort will be halted, and the future of the submarine deal looks dimmed. Due to the existence of the KMT-CCP [Chinese Communist Party] forum and Ma’s policy to avoid angering CCP ... it seems the KMT’s defense policy will be basically factored through these two elements.”