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President urges Taiwan, China to avoid political struggle

President urges Taiwan, China to avoid political struggle

Vatican City, March 19 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou expressed hope Tuesday that Taiwan and Beijing can drop their political struggle, especially as there are many Catholic followers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait who share the same religious belief.
A win-win situation in cross-strait relations and warming developments were nearly unthinkable in the past, but have started to take shape over the past five years, Ma said after Pope Francis' inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square. His administration has been working toward improved Taiwan-China ties, which will in turn improve Taiwan's relations with the rest of the world, Ma said as he and first lady Chow Mei-ching were wrapping up a four-day trip to attend the new pontiff's inauguration. The first couple had earlier had a brief conversation with the pope, which marked the first meeting between a Republic of China president and a pontiff. Taiwan is grateful to the Church, while China probably is as well, Ma said, calling this thankfulness a lofty human sentiment. He called on the two sides to avoid malicious political struggle. Beijing reportedly reiterated its demand that the Holy See cut its ties with Taiwan in exchange for establishing formal ties with China shortly after the election of the new pope. Hopefully, Taiwan and China can continue to help and support each other in their dealings and in international affairs, which should be the ultimate goal for both sides, Ma said at a press conference.
The president also noted the many exchanges between Taiwan and the Vatican over the past years, including an arrangement for Chinese clergy to visit Taiwan for lectures and discussions.
During the Mass, Ma and the first lady were seen engaging with world leaders including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Speaking of his meeting with Biden, Ma said he brought up with Biden the two-way trade talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which is seen as a precursor to a full-fledged free trade agreement. The talks reopened in Taipei earlier this month following a six-year hiatus. Ma said he also expressed gratitude to the U.S. for sealing two rounds of arms sales to Taiwan and including Taiwan in its visa-waiver program. Jason Yuan, Taiwan's top national security adviser, who also attended the press conference, described Biden as an old friend who understands Taiwan very well, noting that the Taiwan Relations Act that the U.S. Congress enacted in 1979 while Biden was a senator. (By Kelven Huang and Scully Hsiao)