Ma, Hsieh debate cross-strait relations at Harvard U.

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Source:China Post

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Ma, Hsieh debate cross-strait relations at Harvard U. (updated 12:39 a.m.)
The China Post staff

Kuomintang (KMT) leader Ma Ying-jeou said pushing for talks with enemy China would reduce the risk of war, after former Premier Frank Hsieh accused Ma of ignoring Beijing's escalating military build-up during Ma's lecture at Harvard University.

Their verbal jousting first started when Ma, tipped to be an opposition presidential contender, discovered he had a surprise guest in the front row listening to his lecture on cross-strait relations Tuesday.

It was Hsieh, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who also has presidential ambitions. Hsieh is currently undertaking short-term postgraduate studies at Harvard University's Asia Center.

Speaking in English, Hsieh challenged Ma's reconcilatory attitude to relations with China.

"You should not ignore the military threat that Chinese missiles hold over Taiwan. You didn't mention that," Hsieh said.

"Taiwan should not be blamed. It would be unfair and misleading to criticize Taiwan only," Hsieh told Ma and his jam-packed audience consisting of several hundred students and academics.

Ma told his audience at the prestigious American university that China's military threat only underscored the need for cross-strait dialogue.

"It is precisely because of the threat that we need to negotiate with the other side," Ma said.

"We cannot just sit idly or engage ourselves in an arms race with the other side," Ma said.

The KMT chairman said there were many measures Taiwan could take to soothe tensions with China. Ma said Taipei could ask Beijing to remove its missiles in exchange for talks. He also said Taipei could push for non-stop direct flights between Taiwan and China.

"I think we should separate the issue of the missiles from the direct flights," Ma said.

Ma also proposed that Taiwan and China find a "modus vivendi" internationally that would allow Taipei to take part in international activities without objections from Beijing.

"Cross-strait relations should not be a zero sum game. They should develop pragmatically," Ma said.

KMT lawmaker Su Chi told reporters afterwards that Ma and the KMT wanted to make a temporary arrangement with China over the issue of Taiwan's international participation so that the two sides did not need to waste time and money over diplomatic rivalry.

Ma said cross-strait relations had stagnated after the DPP took power in 2000. He said the economic ties were continuing to develop but the DPP was placing ideological constraints on business, hampering their competitiveness.

"This is allowing Taiwan's economy to become marginalized," Ma said.

Ma also took questions from a mainland Chinese student who had traveled three hours to listen to his lecture.

Besides Hsieh, other DPP politicians lashed out at Ma's ideas on cross-strait relations aired on his U.S. trip.

DPP Department of Chinese Affairs director Lai I-chung criticized Ma's assertion that for Taiwan "one China" meant the Republic of China (ROC).

"Ma's remarks defy the common sense of the international community as the world clearly sees 'one China' as the People's Republic of China," Lai said in Washington.

"What Ma should say is that the status quo of Taiwan means the Taiwan people are able to decide their own future, and that this is the status quo Taiwan people want," Lai said.

DPP spokesman Tsai Huang-liang and legislator Hsio Bi-khim, a foreign affairs expert, said Ma's ideas on relations with China were "empty talk" aimed at furthering his presidential ambitions. The presidential poll is in 2008.

Tsai lambasted Ma for saying "there will be a revolution if Taiwan moves to change its formal designation of Republic of China."

"Taiwan is a nation of law and order and the people can determine anything by putting into force their collective ideals," Tsai said.

Hsiao said Ma was blind to the fact that Taiwan was becoming over-dependent on China. The mainland is Taiwan's largest source of investment but it also deploys almost 800 missiles aimed at the island.

"Ma has not taken Taiwan's security and the risks it faces into consideration when advocating that Taiwan should strengthen exchanges with China," Hsiao said.

Hsiao also said that reconcilatory historic visits to China from opposition leaders last year had not changed Beijing's attitude to Taipei's international participation.

"China is still suppressing Taiwan's World Health Organization (WHO) bid," Hsiao said.

Hsiao also demanded Ma clarify what he meant by his comments in the U.S. on supporting "reasonable arms purchases".

She said the KMT chairman had been ducking issues relating to a proposed billion dollar U.S. arms purchase , which the KMT has blocked in the legislature for over a year.

"It's an attempt not to irritate the Americans on one hand and to curry favor with the Chinese on the other," she said.

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