Ma talks of peace deal in 10 years
Taiwan aims to sign a peace agreement with the mainland within 10 years, provided there is a high level of consensus on the island and sufficient trust on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the island's President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday.
In a briefing on his policy goals for the next decade, Ma said explicitly that he might consider signing a peace pact with Beijing. His mainland-friendly policy platform is a major part of his campaign for re-election early next year.
His comment came eight days after President Hu Jintao called on both sides to end antagonism, 'heal past wounds and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation'.
Analysts said Ma's comment on the issue could provide ammunition for the opposition pro-independence camp ahead of the January 14 presidential election.
He stressed that the peace pact idea was part of the consensus reached between Hu and former Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Lien Chan, who made a historic visit to Beijing in 2005.
That visit led to a gradual warming of cross-strait ties after Ma became Taiwan's president in 2008 and adopted a policy, now part of the ruling KMT political platform, of engaging the mainland.
The KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949, after losing a civil war to the Communist Party.
'We are now thinking of cautiously considering whether we should sign a cross-strait peace agreement within the next decade, as the two sides' relations are gradually improving,' Ma said. 'Although [the peace pact] is not in our priority agenda, it would seem somewhat odd if we leave this out from our next decade policy outline, as if we have no plan for doing it.'
He said that in his cross-strait policy he had opted for 'economy first and politics later', but that did not mean he would 'rule out political dialogue with mainland China in the future, and the peace pact is, of course, part of that'.
He also listed conditions for the signing of such a pact, anticipating criticism from the pro-independence camp, which has consistently accused Ma of trying to 'sell out Taiwan' to the mainland.
'Under the premises of a high level of support from the people, based on the needs of the country, and supervision from the legislature ... we could consider a peace treaty with the mainland in 10 years,' Ma said.
Asked if it could be achieved during his second four-year term if he win's January's poll, Ma said 'there is no timetable' and 'it purely depends on whether the country has that need at that time.'
Ma is facing a close battle with presidential rival Dr Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, whose party last night issued a statement accusing Ma of, in effect, setting a timetable for reunification.
Analysts said the DPP would use Ma's remarks to attack him for leaning too far towards the mainland, making his re-election bid tougher.
'Putting out such policy outline at this time will only make things even more complicated, allowing the opposition camp to gain more points to attack Ma for selling out Taiwan,' said political analyst Professor George Tsai Wei of the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.
He said it was too soon for Ma to announce such a plan, given that there would have to be a long process, first involving political dialogue and then formal negotiations.
In Beijing, the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said it had no immediate comment on Ma's remarks.