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2009年5月25日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 23(IHT/Asahi: May 25,2009)
EDITORIAL: Better China-Taiwan ties

One year has passed since the inauguration of the Taiwanese administration of President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party, who campaigned for the island's rapprochement with mainland China.

Over the past year, relations that once appeared frozen have thawed markedly. We welcome the improvement of ties that has brought stability in the region.

The cross-strait relations started deteriorating in July 1999, when then Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui defined the ties as between "two countries."

Lee's successor, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, who came to power in spring 2000, refused to accept the "one China" principle and leaned strongly toward Taiwanese independence.
Chen's pro-independence posture brought dialogue between Taipei and Beijing to a halt.

Since taking office in May last year, Ma has stuck to his policy of maintaining the status quo without seeking either reunification or independence while aggressively pursuing talks with China as part of efforts to revitalize the Taiwanese economy.

Beijing has responded to Ma's overture by embarking on serious policy dialogue with his administration.

This change has occurred because President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders, aware of concerns about the "threat" posed by China among many Taiwanese, have focused on peaceful development of China-Taiwan ties rather than on efforts to achieve reunification as soon as possible.

Still, the change has been amazing.

Less than 10 days after Ma was sworn in as Taiwanese president, the chairman of the Nationalist Party, Wu Poh-hsiung, and Hu met in Beijing and paved the way for rapprochement. The chiefs of the so-called unofficial negotiating bodies of the two sides have already held three rounds of talks.

In addition to long-overdue direct flights and shipping channels between them, China and Taiwan have agreed to let Chinese tourists visit the island.

Besides people and goods, money will also flow more freely across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing and Taipei have reached basic agreements on allowing financial institutions on both sides to invest and do business in each other's markets while opening Taiwan's economy to investment by Chinese companies.

The improved relations have also set the stage for Taiwan's participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. Taipei has been requesting an observer seat in the assembly since 1997.

Dropping its traditional opposition to Taiwan's presence in any United Nations organization, China has decided to let Taiwan participate in the assembly.

The whole world welcomed Beijing's move amid the global spread of the new swine flu.

Late last year, Hu pledged to deal with issues of Taiwan's participation in international organizations in a reasonable way based on an understanding of the feelings of Taiwanese people.

After Taiwan received an invitation to join the assembly meeting, Ma expressed gratitude for China's "goodwill."

The thaw between China and Taiwan is also affecting other diplomatic relations.

In its relations with the United States and Japan, China has traditionally reacted strongly to issues involving Taiwan. But recently, Beijing rarely brings up diplomatic issues concerning Taiwan.

Yet there is considerable criticism in Taiwan of the Ma administration's policy toward China. On May 17, about 800,000 Taiwanese joined anti-government demonstrations, denouncing the administration's "excessively pro-China" stance, according to organizers.

China has not reduced its 1,050 to 1,150 missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the U.S. Defense Department. These missiles are causing great anxiety among people in Taiwan.

We hope China will take a further step toward easing tensions by reducing these missiles. Such a move would demonstrate Beijing's flexibility in dealing with Taiwan-related defense issues in addition to economic ones.


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