In national day speech, Taiwanese leader praises cross-strait dialogue Taiwan's Double Tenth national day saw the return of a sea of its official Republic of China flags yesterday as well as the long-abandoned slogan, 'Long Live the Republic of China'. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang brought them back to celebrate his first national day as Taiwan's leader. 'Today is the national day of the Republic of China,' he said at a rally in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei. 'Ninety-seven years ago today, the gunfire of the Wuchang Uprising aroused an ancient nation from its sleep, as a revolution led by our founding father, Dr Sun Yat-sen, ended 5,000 years of imperial rule and gave birth to Asia's first democratic republic.' Throughout his message, he mostly referred to the island as 'ROC' rather than Taiwan, which his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, had used repeatedly to highlight Taiwan's sovereignty. Mr Ma, who helped the KMT return to power after eight years of Mr Chen's leadership, said it was important to mend fences with the mainland rather than provoke it, as the previous government had done, if Taiwan wanted to achieve regional stability and peace. 'With a strong mandate from the people, the new government swiftly re-established cross-strait dialogue, which had been disrupted for a decade. This has ... eased cross-strait tensions and made a clear contribution to regional stability and peace, winning the affirmation of the international community.' To rebut criticism by DPP opponents that he leaned too much towards the mainland, even at the expense of Taiwan's security, Mr Ma emphasised the need to keep an effective defence force. 'We must maintain a solid national defence so that we can promote peace across the strait without having our security compromised.' He reiterated his 'three nos' policy of 'no reunification, no independence and no use of force' to ease criticism by pro-independence opponents and mainland concern over independence of the island. He also said his mainland engagement policy would not be affected by the widening crisis over tainted milk products. The situation has become a source of economic distress to the island, given millions of dollars in losses so far due to the import of tainted mainland ingredients. Mr Ma, whose approval rating has slid to 23 per cent from a high of 70 per cent because he has failed so far to lift the sagging economy, called on the public to have faith in the government in addressing the economic woes despite the global downturn. He ended his address by shouting the slogan 'Long Live the ROC', which had been conspicuously absent under Mr Chen. But to placate advocates of Taiwanese independence, he also shouted 'Long Live Taiwanese Democracy'. Waving small ROC flags and braving the heat under a clear sky, thousands of overseas Chinese and KMT supporters joined him in shouting 'Long Live the ROC'. More than 10,000 overseas Chinese returned for the rally, three times more than the number when Mr Chen was in office. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom was the only foreign state leader to attend. Prominent US and Japanese dignitaries were absent. The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry explained that many high-level guests attended Mr Ma's inauguration in May, making it hard for them to spare the time to return five months later. Except for former vice-president Lien Chan, all other ex-leaders, including Mr Chen and former president Lee Teng-hui, were absent. DPP chairman Tsai Ing-wen also declined to take part.