Ma-Tsai meeting to focus on power transfer, cross-strait ties

President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will discuss the transfer of power and cross-strait ties in a meeting on Wednesday (March 30).
President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will discuss the transfer of power and cross-strait ties in a meeting on Wednesday (March 30). PHOTOS: EPA, REUTERS

'Greater urgency to meeting' after Gambia switches diplomatic recognition to Beijing

TAIPEI • President Ma Ying-jeou and President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will discuss the transfer of power, cross-strait ties and diplomatic issues in a closely-watched meeting this week.

The meeting on Wednesday will take place following several requests from Mr Ma to meet Ms Tsai, according to Taiwanese media. The venue has yet to be decided, but it is likely to be held at the Presidential Office or the Taipei Guest House.

The outgoing president has said he is looking forward to the meeting, which will give him a chance to discuss public policies with Ms Tsai, thereby ensuring a smooth transition of power to the opposition.

A source with the Presidential Office said Mr Ma hopes to meet Ms Tsai to exchange views on cross-strait ties and diplomatic issues.

According to Taiwanese media, the meeting has taken on greater urgency after the African country of Gambia on March 17 switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

The move, said Taiwan's National Security Bureau, was meant to put pressure on Ms Tsai to "fall in line" before her inauguration on May 20, reported Reuters .

According to Taiwanese media, the meeting has taken on greater urgency after the African country of Gambia on March 17 switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

China has repeatedly warned Ms Tsai against any moves towards independence, while Ms Tsai has stuck to her stance of maintaining the status quo without offering a clear policy.

In a recent interview with broadcaster CNN, Mr Ma said China is willing to develop relations with Taiwan peacefully based on the so-called "1992 consensus" of "one China, different interpretations".

President Ma said in the CNN interview that both he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are well aware that the conditions for the unification of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are lacking at present.

Mr Ma told CNN that Beijing certainly desires unification and has never given up on the idea, according to a Chinese transcript of the interview released on Saturday by the Presidential Office.

But Beijing, according to Mr Ma, is also aware that pushing for immediate unification would not achieve good results and might even lead to serious consequences.

"Of course we hope that my successor will think carefully about supporting the 1992 consensus, allowing cross-strait ties to move ahead smoothly, so when Taiwan tries to develop its international relations, we can face a more friendly environment," Mr Ma said.

Ms Tsai has so far been reluctant to acknowledge the existence of a 1992 consensus on "one China".

In the past eight years, Taiwan has enjoyed improved relations with the mainland under President Ma.

Analysts have warned that cross-strait ties are headed for a period of uncertainty now that the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has gained control of the presidency and Parliament.

Separately, Taiwan's long-time Latin American ally Panama has invited both Ms Tsai and President Xi to the inauguration of the Panama Canal's expansion one month after she assumes office in May.

Panama is one of Taiwan's oldest diplomatic allies, but diplomats in Beijing have told Reuters they believe Panama is the most likely Central American nation to next ditch Taiwan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Ma-Tsai meeting to focus on power transfer, cross-strait ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe