Ex-President Ma: Do something to stop losing more allies

Ma Ying-jeou said the key to stopping a diplomatic war across the Taiwan Strait lies in Beijing.

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA)-Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) urged his successor Wednesday to “think carefully” about ways and means to restore mutual trust between Taiwan and China in order to stop more diplomatic allies switching their allegiance to Beijing.

Taiwan lost another ally, El Salvador, Tuesday, the third in just four months and the fifth since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016. Taiwan now has just 17 diplomatic allies.

Ma said he did not relish the embarrassment of the Tsai government. Instead, he said, he was sad to learn that Taiwan has lost yet another diplomatic ally. “Were I in her position, what should we (in the government) do?” he asked.

He said the key to stopping a diplomatic war across the Taiwan Strait lies in Beijing. “During my eight years as president, I put cross-strait relations above foreign relations,” he said of his 2008-2016 term of office.

“Some of our diplomatic allies actually sought to establish ties with China for economic and trade reasons but were turned down because China told them not to hurt cross-strait ties. This is important proof that there was a diplomatic truce,” Ma said.

He said this had been possible because both sides of the Taiwan Strait agreed on the “1992 consensus” — that there is only one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.

Based on this consensus, Taiwan was able to develop not only cross-strait ties but also its relations with other countries, a win-win situation that the United States praised and appreciated very much, he said.

Faced with the recent spate of severed ties with Taiwan’s allies, Ma said he felt sad because these allies broke their ties not with Tsai or her Democratic Progressive Party, but with the Republic of China, and “they may never reinstate official ties with us.”

Ma called on Tsai to think thoroughly about her inaugural address, in which she pledged to develop cross-strait ties based on the ROC Constitution and relevant laws, which he said are exactly the sources of the “1992 consensus,” if she wants to stop the ongoing spate of break-ups.

He noted that although some people in China are opposed to the “flexible version” of the “1992 consensus” allowing for “one China, respective interpretations,” Beijing has never publicly rejected this version.

Based on the mutually acceptable “1992 consensus,” Ma said, cross-strait ties developed well and its flexibility actually won the respect of the international community.

“Over those eight years, was our international status downgraded? Did the number of our diplomatic allies go down?” Ma asked. Taiwan maintained official ties with 23 countries between 2008 and 2016, losing only The Gambia, which cut ties with Taiwan in 2013. Even then, China did not establish ties with the African country until after the Kuomintang lost the 2016 general election.

According to a New York Times report, Beijing at that time was pursuing closer ties with Taiwan and “its China-friendly president, Ma Ying-jeou, and did not immediately resume relations with Gambia in order to not be seen as pressuring Taiwan.”

Anything that involves cross-strait ties should be resolved by direct talks between Taipei and Beijing, Ma said. “Any third-party involvement won’t work.”