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El Salvador tests Ma's 'diplomatic truce'

El Salvador tests Ma's 'diplomatic truce'

The strategy of a "diplomatic truce" with the People's Republic of China implemented by President Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang government faces its severest test yet in the wake of the election of leftist television journalist Mauricio Funes as president of El Salvador last weekend.
The triumph by Funes, the candidate of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a former revolutionary guerrilla movement, over former National Civic Police director Rodrigo Avila of the far-right ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance) by a 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent margin March 15, ends 20 years of consecutive ARENA.
Since winning the race, Funes has promised to switch ties to Beijing upon taking office June 1.
Such declarations may seem "old hat" to President Ma and his national security team since Taiwan has been able to maintain formal ties after leftward shifts in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Panama under both the former Democratic Progressive Party government and under Paraguay since Ma took office last May.
Indeed, Paraguay's new left-wing President Fernando Lugo has continued formal ties with Taiwan since his inaugural last August which Ma attended.
Senior KMT government sources maintain that the PRC rejected Lugo's overtures because Beijing wanted a "truce" with Taiwan have cited the Paraguayan case to underscore the success of Ma's "diplomatic truce," in which neither Taipei or Beijing would steal away each other's allies. This spin seems plausible on the surface, but the underlying reality is more complicated.
Besides the fact that the largest party in Lugo's center-left "Patriotic Alliance for Change" coalition is the pro-Taiwan liberal Authentic Radical Liberal Party, Ma also encouraged Paraguay to stay in the Taiwan camp by promising Lugo a US$71 million aid package.
But El Salvador presents a far more severe challenge. Besides the attractions of China's emerging economic market opportunities, the FMLN has a deeply felt historical account to settle with Taiwan due to the role of the former KMT authoritarian regime in the bitter Salvadoran civil war that cost over 70,000 lives from 1980 to 1991.
The FMLN has never forgotten that ARENA founder Roberto D'Aubuisson, who organized and led the death squads which tortured and killed thousands of civilians and who directly ordered the assassination of Archbishop of San Salvador Monsignor Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980 that sparked the civil war, was trained in "police techniques" in Taiwan.
Moreover, unlike Nicaragua, Guatemala or Paraguay, Taiwan has been unable to develop solid political dialogue with the FMLN even under DPP President Chen Shui-bian.
Chances for a turnaround under a restored KMT government are even less promising, even if Ma resorts again to "money diplomacy."
In this light, it was not surprising that Foreign Minister Francisco Ou said "yes" Thursday when asked by lawmakers whether Taiwan would accept "dual recognition" if the new FMLN government recognizes the PRC. However, Ou was promptly overruled by President Ma, who on Friday squashed the possibility of accepting "dual recognition" as "unrealistic."
Ou manifestly failed grasp the fact that the Ma administration has no intention of agitating Beijing's Chinese Communist Party leadership by touching on the sovereignty issue.
After all, accepting "dual recognition" would mean acknowledging the coexistence of both the PRC and the Republic of China on Taiwan and thus would constitute a "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" stance.
In his New Year's Eve "six point" speech, PRC State Chairman and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao rigidly opposed these concepts and insisted on Beijing's "one China principle," which posits that Taiwan is part of the PRC.
Moreover, Ma himself has dumped the concept of "special state-to-state relations" and prefers to define cross-strait relations as "region to region" and has also rejected the notion of "dual recognition" in favor of "mutual non-recognition" under his interpretation of the so-called "Consensus of 1992" as "'one China with individual interpretations."
However, Ma's notion of a "diplomatic truce" is blind to the real intention of the PRC to cement a diplomatic status quo overwhelmingly in its favor and overlooks the fact that Taiwan's 23 diplomatic partners may be "small," but nonetheless have their own political wills, vital interests and accumulated leverage.
"Dual recognition" may be the best Taipei can get in El Salvador, but this possibility exposes the dilemma in which Ma's wishful thinking has trapped Taiwan's foreign relations.
Accepting "dual recognition" would clash with Ma's pursuit for cross-strait relations based on the "one China" framework, but refusing to accept or strive for dual recognition would further undermine Taiwan's sovereignty and international presence in the face of the PRC's worldwide campaign to insist on acceptance of its "one China principle," especially if the FMLN breaks ties with Taipei regardless of whether Beijing accepts San Salvador as a new ally.
Hence, El Salvador joins Paraguay and the World Health Assembly as "time bombs" which threaten to expose Ma's "flexible diplomacy" as a "dead end" since the ultimate arbitrator of Taiwan's international presence will be the PRC.


Updated : 2021-10-19 04:51 GMT+08:00