Taiwan's President Ma pledges to abide by 'One China' policy

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday renewed his support for the "One China" policy as the island marked the 20th anniversary of historic talks with former bitter rival China.

President Ma, who initiated detente with Beijing when he came to power in 2008 and has seen a marked improvement in relations, pledged to maintain the status quo which he said was to the island's benefit.

Taipei is becoming increasingly reluctant to push for political negotiations with its giant neighbour due to a lack of consensus among its people.

"No matter where we are, here or abroad, we'll by no means push for 'Two Chinas', 'One Taiwan, one China' or 'Taiwan independence'," the president said in a speech to hundreds of government officials, scholars and reporters at a ceremony to mark the anniversary.

The landmark 1993 negotiations in Singapore were the first high-level talks between Taiwan and China since the Kuomintang government fled to Taipei in 1949 after losing a civil war on the mainland.

Under the "One China' policy, each side formally asserts its claim to be the legitimate ruler of both Taiwan and the mainland, meaning that Taipei rules out making any formal declaration of independence for the island.

Beijing has threatened to invade in response to any such declaration.

China angrily suspended negotiations in 1999 in protest at controversial remarks by Taiwan's then-president Lee Teng-hui, when he referred to Taipei-Beijing ties as "special state to state" relations.

Dialogue resumed in 2008 after Mr Ma, from the China-friendly Kuomintang party, came to power, ending the eight-year rule by the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party.

The past five years have seen improved economic cooperation, including the signing of a historic trade agreement and direct flights across the Strait.

But the idea of political, as opposed to trade, talks with the mainland is highly sensitive in Taiwan.

The DPP and the smaller but more radical opposition party Taiwan Solidarity Union strongly oppose the "One China" principle, which Beijing insists is the basis of negotiations.