President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of October 18 with a delegation from the US National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP). In addition to describing progress in Taiwan's relations with the United States and mainland China in recent years, the president reiterated that Taiwan will continue to use peaceful measures to resolve international disputes, and will seek international cooperation to enhance trade and economic relations.
In remarks, President Ma first praised the NCAFP for the research it has carried out on cross-strait relations over the years, as well as its Track I 1/2 and Track II activities, which have facilitated thorough discussion of cross-strait matters. The president said that the NCAFP is quite impressive for the energy it puts into its research, and for the resulting achievements.
President Ma told the visitors that in recent years the ROC has made considerable progress in its diplomatic and cross-strait policies. Pointing to Taiwan-US relations as an example, the president noted, over the past five years a number of important US Cabinet officials, deputy-level officials, and members of congress have visited Taiwan. President Ma mentioned that former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two years ago during the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting stated publicly that Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the United States, which shows the strong friendship between the two countries. On the trade and economic front, President Ma commented that after the ROC government last year resolved the dispute over imports of US beef to Taiwan, the two sides in March of this year resumed negotiations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). And during the recent APEC meetings, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and former Vice President Vincent C. Siew (蕭萬長), the leader's representative from Taiwan, held bilateral talks, exchanging opinions on Taiwan's desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Ma said the relationship between the two countries continues to move forward.
As for regional security, the president stated, in April of this year Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement, resolving a 40-year dispute between the two countries. The agreement ensures the rights of Taiwanese fishermen to operate in a specific area while allowing each country to maintain its stance on sovereignty over the disputed area, he said. Meanwhile, the president noted, in August of this year Taiwan was able to use peaceful means to resolve a dispute with the Philippines after persons on a Philippine government vessel firing shots at a Taiwanese fishing boat that was operating in overlapping exclusive economic waters, damaging the boat and killing a fisherman. President Ma said that in both instances the actions by Taiwan helped to alleviate tense relations in the East Asian region, which highlighted the ROC's commitment to peace.
On the topic of cross-strait ties, President Ma said, relations between Taiwan and mainland China in recent years have developed stably and rapidly. The two sides have now signed 19 agreements and reached consensus on two issues, and 670 flights operate each week between the two sides, which comes to roughly 95 flights a day. The president noted that Taiwan carriers fly to 54 airports in mainland China, while mainland carriers fly to 10 airports in Taiwan. This level of aviation ties between the two sides is unprecedented, he said. In addition, the president commented, Taiwan's Ministry of Education this year has adopted changes with respect to the recruitment of mainland Chinese students by colleges and universities here. In addition to exchange students and degree students, junior college graduates from the mainland can now study here, as well. Nearly 20,000 mainland Chinese students are studying here, around 20 times more than the 800 mainland students in school here when he took office in 2008.
President Ma also mentioned that former Vice President Siew held talks during the recent APEC meetings with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平), and the two sides reached a further consensus on improving relations. The president stated that Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-Chi (王郁琦) also met during APEC with Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) of mainland China's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, and both officials referred to each other using their official titles. This marked a first in the history of cross-strait relations, he noted. As for talks on reciprocal establishment of cross-strait representative offices, President Ma said, the offices would not be "economic" in nature, but "political," which makes the proposed agreement on representative offices more political than any of the 19 agreements that have been signed to date. Such an agreement would be the 20th, and would be a highly significant one, he commented.
As for Taiwan's participation in the international community, President Ma stated, Taiwan has attended the World Health Assembly for five consecutive years as an observer, and recently the president of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) invited a representative from Taiwan to attend this year's assembly under the name Chinese Taipei. This marked the first time that Taiwan has been present at an ICAO assembly in the 42 years since it lost its representation in the United Nations, he mentioned, which proves that improved cross-strait relations facilitate Taiwan's efforts to expand its international relations and broaden its participation in the international community.
Lastly, the president stated, former Vice President Siew in November of this year will lead a large delegation of corporate leaders from Taiwan to the United States to look for investment opportunities. This mission is a response to the SelectUSA investment initiative, he said, expressing hope that the trip will further enhance cooperative relations between the two countries.
The delegation included NCAFP President George D. Schwab, NCAFP Senior Vice President and Project Director of the Forum on Asia-Pacific Security Donald S. Zagoria, Asia Society President Emeritus Nicholas Platt, Albright Stonebridge Group Senior Director Evans Joseph Robert Revere, and Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies President Ralph A. Cossa. The group was accompanied to the Presidential Office by American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office Director Christopher J. Marut to meet President Ma. Also attending the meeting were Secretary-General to the President Timothy Chin-Tien Yang (楊進添), National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Jacob Chang (張大同), and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ting Joseph Shih (石定).
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