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Taiwan's presidential front-runner vows to improve the island's ties with US, China

Taiwan's presidential front-runner vows to improve the island's ties with US, China

Taiwanese presidential front-runner Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday he would work to restore the island's traditionally good ties with the U.S. amid efforts to lower tensions with Taiwan's longtime rival China.
Ma, of the main opposition Nationalists, is seeking to leverage widespread discontent over the pro-independence policies of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian in the March 22 election.
Opinion polls give Ma, 57, a substantial lead. He hopes to defeat Frank Hsieh of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party.
Ma told experts meeting in the capital, Taipei, that Taiwan should seek to repair ties with the United States. Relations have been strained in recent months over Chen's support for a referendum on U.N. membership for the self-governed, democratic island of 23 million people.
"We share many common interests with the United States, and we don't want to become a troublemaker," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Taiwan's U.N. referendum plans on Tuesday while she was in Beijing, saying the vote is "not going to help anyone" and "should not be held."
Washington's position reflects China's charges that Taiwan's U.N. bid is part of a calculated effort to push toward formal independence.
Almost 60 years after Taiwan and China split amid civil war, the mainland still sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened war if the island's government moves to make the break permanent.
Ma said he favors the purchase of advanced American weapons systems including F-16 fighter jets, but also seeks to engage China in a bid to improve economic and political relations.
"There is no contradiction between the (two) approaches," Ma said, adding that the U.S. would welcome his China initiative "because this would prevent (Washington) from getting embroiled in a war against its wishes."
Almost 30 years after it shifted recognition from Taipei to Beijing, the U.S. remains Taiwan's most important foreign partner, hinting it could come to the island's aid if China ever attacked.
Ma also said he opposed an open-ended arms race with China, insisting that as president he would limit purchases to defensive systems.
Rather than taking steps "which could alarm our neighbors," Taiwan would be better served by acting as a "regional springboard" through the initiation of direct air and sea links with China, he said.
In contrast to Ma, Chen rejects relaxing trade restrictions and ending a ban on direct transportation links with China, arguing that such moves could reduce the island's options in the event of a future confrontation.


Updated : 2021-04-22 02:43 GMT+08:00