'One China' principle must be basis for relations with Taiwan: China's state media

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the crowd after swearing in as the 14th President of Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to the crowd after swearing in as the 14th President of Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

SHANGHAI (Reuters/AFP) - Only by confirming the "One China" principle can cross-strait authorities continue regular communications, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said on Saturday (May 21), according to the state newswire Xinhua.

Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that has traditionally favoured independence, was sworn in on Friday after eight years under the China-friendly Nationalist Ma Ying-jeou.

Although Ms Tsai, Taiwan's first female president, said Taiwan would play a responsible role and be a "staunch guardian of peace" with China in her speech on Friday, Chinese officials are pressuring the new government to explicitly endorse the so called "one China" principle, which was agreed to with the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT).

The tacit agreement followed a 1992 meeting between Chinese officials and the KMT that laid out the "one China" ideology.

According to that principle, which China says was agreed to in 1992, both sides can interpret what "one China" means.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office on Friday said Ms Tsai's remarks were an "incomplete answer" while an editorial published Saturday in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said that "Taiwan's new leadership must complete their currently incomplete response".

Cross-strait authorities have had active interactions for more than two years through a hotline and other means after establishing a regular mechanism in 2014 based on the 1992 consensus, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office said on Saturday, according to Xinhua.

But these regular, official communications will stop unless Ms Tsai acknowledges the "1992 consensus", said Mr Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, according to a report by the official Xinhua news service.

"The communications mechanism between the two departments can only continue if the '92 consensus', which represents the common political foundation of the One China principle, is adhered to," Xinhua quoted Mr Ma as saying.

Ms Tsai and the DPP have never acknowledged the consensus. In her speech on Friday, Ms Tsai reiterated her previous stance of recognising the 1992 meeting took place, but did not endorse its conclusions.

The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), a semi-official organisation that works with its Taiwanese counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), deals with issues that are too legally or politically delicate to be handled through official government channels.

"As long as SEF receives authorisation to confirm to ARATS the adherence to the '92 consensus'... authorised negotiations and contact between the two organisations can be maintained," Xinhua quoted the head of ARATS as saying, without giving a specific name.

The two organisations, which have played a critical role in improving ties between Taipei and Beijing, renewed contact in 2008, following almost a decade of tension that ended with the election of Mr Ma Ying-jeou.

Although Taiwan is self-ruling after splitting with the mainland in 1949 following a civil war, it has never formally declared independence and Beijing still sees it as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Beijing is highly suspicious of Ms Tsai, whose DPP is traditionally pro-independence and has warned her against any attempt at a breakaway.