Tsai repeats call for cross-strait talks to resume

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen pledged to maintain stable and peaceful relations with Beijing.
Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen pledged to maintain stable and peaceful relations with Beijing.

In an attempt to ease growing tensions in cross-strait ties, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, in her first speech as leader at a significant national celebration, repeated her call for both sides to resume talks in which "anything can be included" in discussions.

She pledged to maintain stable and peaceful relations with Beijing, saying that she did not want to go down the "old path of confrontation".

But she also stressed that Taiwan would not "bow to pressure" from Beijing, adding that it must "face up to the reality" that the Republic of China - Taiwan's official name - exists.

Noting that cross-strait relations have seen "ups and downs" in the past months, Ms Tsai said: "The two sides of the strait should sit down and talk as soon as possible. Anything can be included for discussion, as long as it is conducive to the development of cross-strait peace and the welfare of people on both sides."

She added: "Leaders on both sides should jointly display wisdom and flexibility and, with a calm attitude, bring together a divided present towards a win-win future."

The Taiwan leader made similar remarks during interviews with The Wall Street Journal and Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun last week.

She was speaking yesterday in front of 11,000 guests, including 347 foreign dignitaries, at the Double Ten ceremony. Held in front of the Presidential Office Building, it commemorates the overthrow of the Manchu Qing dynasty by revolutionaries on Oct 10, 1911.

Responding to Ms Tsai's remarks yesterday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) reiterated the need for her to recognise the 1992 consensus - a tacit agreement between the two sides that there is one China - and the principle that it embodies before any dialogue is possible.

It warned that denying the 1992 consensus would be deemed as inciting confrontation and would "lead to a dead end".

TAO spokesman An Fengshan said: "So long as the historical fact of the 1992 consensus is recognised... both sides can negotiate and interact positively... for a brighter future."

Relations between Taipei and Beijing have turned frosty since Ms Tsai, who is the leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was sworn into office in May.

In her inauguration speech, she did not acknowledge the 1992 Consensus which Beijing has set as the bottom line for continuing cross-strait exchanges.

Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, has been piling the pressure on Ms Tsai since she took office. Reports say it has restricted the flow of Taiwan-bound Chinese tourists, resulting in a 22.3 per cent drop in their numbers since she took office.

Taiwan was also not invited to the meeting of a United Nations aviation agency, ostensibly because of pressure from China.

Cross-strait expert Zhu Song- ling from Beijing Union University said cross-strait ties were not likely to improve despite Ms Tsai's latest calls.

"Hoping to conduct talks with Beijing without recognising the 1992 consensus is like building castles in the air," said Professor Zhu.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Tsai repeats call for cross-strait talks to resume'. Print Edition | Subscribe