Ma clarifies ‘two areas,’ reaffirms non-denial


TAIPEI — President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday the Republic of China is a sovereign state and defined relations across the Taiwan Strait as a special relationship.

He also stressed that conceptualizing Taiwan and mainland China as “two areas” was not his invention, but believed the framework offered a way for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to sidestep sovereignty questions in pursuing closer ties as long as each side did not deny the other’s existence.

Ma said consultations between the two sides’ intermediary bodies have been conducted under such a “mutual non-denial” framework.

Elaborating on the issue during an exclusive interview with the Central News Agency, Ma said although a total of 171 countries worldwide have recognized the People’s Republic of China as a state, Taiwan cannot do so, because if Taiwan were to recognize the PRC, it would be “recognizing the existence of another country on its own territory.”

Ma was referring to the fact that the territory of the Republic of China, as defined in the country’s Constitution, covers not only Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu where its jurisdiction reaches, but also the Chinese mainland, overlapping with the territorial area claimed by the PRC.

“It is impossible for the two sides to recognize each other, but they can achieve mutual non denial,” Ma said.

Ma first put forth in August the concept that ties between Taiwan and the mainland are a type of “special relations” and ruled out the possibility that they could be links “between two states.”

Such a concept, in which Taiwan and the mainland are referred to as “areas,” drew strong protests from the opposition pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which accused Ma of downgrading Taiwan’s status from a sovereign state to a “region” similar to Tibet and Xinjiang.

Ma, however, asserted during the interview that the policy has not changed the status of the Republic of China as a sovereign state or his status as the president of the Republic of China.

According to Ma, the “two areas” concept is not his own invention but could be dated back to 1991, when then-President Lee Teng-hui announced the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion to acknowledge the fact that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are under separate rule.

The move symbolized that the communist regime established on Oct. 1, 1949 in China is no longer considered by the ROC as a “rebellious group,” but “a governing authority that has de facto rule of the mainland,” Ma said.

Over the past 17 years, several other concepts have been put forth by the country’s leaders to try to define cross-strait relations, but none has been proven feasible, he said.

These include the “special state-to-state relations” proposed by Lee in 1999, and the “one country on either side” theory raised by then President Chen Shui-bian in 2002, Ma noted.

In particular, Chen’s statement sparked U.S. concerns that Taiwan was trying to change the cross-strait status quo unilaterally, indicating that such a statement was unhelpful to Taiwan’s effort to assert its sovereignty, Ma said.