Ma wants priority for nuclear safety in cross-strait talks


TAIPEI — President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that he hopes nuclear safety will be top of the agenda in future cross Taiwan Strait negotiations.

The president noted that Taiwan has signed 15 agreements with China in cross-strait talks over the past three years and is hoping to sign pacts on investment protection and dispute settlement this year.

“But we have also begun to look into the issue of cross-strait nuclear safety, as a result of the recent nuclear crisis in Japan,” he said.

The president was referring to the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the northeastern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu in the wake of the March 11 massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which has caused global concern about radiation leaks.

He said Fukushima is more than 2,000 km from Taiwan, while China is at most 200 km away. If any accidents happen in Chinese nuclear plants, the damage could be many times greater than that in Fukushima, he said.

Ma noted that there are six nuclear power plants with more than 10 reactors in China across the strait from Taiwan, and that China is planning to build 27 more such plants.

“We hope to cooperate with China on the prevention of possible calamities,” the president said.

He made the remarks during a meeting with visiting former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who is heading a delegation of security experts and think tank scholars.

The idea of Taiwan as a nuclear-free homeland has become a topic for debate after Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, recently said that if elected president in 2012, she will phase out the use of nuclear energy by 2025.