TAIPEI — It is imperative for China to respect the will of the people of Taiwan and make the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations a virtuous, rather a vicious cycle, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said on Friday in an interview.
“China needs to know that both sides of the strait have fought over the issue of sovereignty for decades without a solution. And that’s why we say it’s time to set the dispute aside and stop touching upon the issue,” Yang said.
“We also think that China should take the passion and consensus of the 23 million Taiwanese people to participate in the international community seriously,” said Yang.
Economically, Taiwan and China have been stepping up efforts to liberalize bilateral trade ties by signing the historic economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) in June. Bilateral personnel exchanges have also increased since the relaxation of regulations, he said.
On the political front, President Ma Ying-jeou has called for rapprochement, flexible diplomacy and a diplomatic truce with China since assuming office in May 2008 to reduce tension and stop a diplomatic war over international allies, which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars under previous administrations.
However, Taiwan’s international space is still limited, Yang said. For many Taiwanese, various incidents on international occasions suggest that China is still hesitant to further extend its goodwill.
China has to understand that “cross-strait relations and Taiwan’s external relations should go hand-in-hand in a virtuous cycle,” Yang said, so that the Taiwanese people will be more supportive of government policy.
“In the past, it has been a vicious cycle and a relentless diplomatic war,” said Yang.
Taiwan has done its part in extending olive branches, choosing not to escalate tension in its efforts to participate in politically sensitive international organizations, such as the United Nations, asking instead only for meaningful participation, he said.
In the Southeast Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, where Taiwan intends to boost its economic presence, friendly gestures from China are thin on the ground, however, Yang went on.
“Taiwan does not intend to alter these countries’ relations with China, nor is it approaching them with hidden agendas,” said Yang, adding that China’s diplomatic approach to Taiwan “has not been well thought through.”
Looking at the coming year, Yang said Taiwan’s diplomacy priorities will focus on consolidating relations with its current 23 diplomatic allies and its relations with the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
“Taiwan may not enjoy official diplomatic relations with these countries, but we are allies who share the same values of freedom and democracy,” he said.
Taiwan will also actively seek more meaningful participation in international organizations, as well as international non-government organizations, he said.