Taiwan opposition chief open to China unification

AP News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2011 3:34 AM
Taiwan opposition chief open to China unification

Taiwan's main opposition presidential candidate has said she is open to the island's unification with China, providing the issue wins popular support.

Even with the condition, Tsai Ing-wen's comments represents a radical departure for her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Unlike the ruling Nationalist Party of President Ma Ying-jeou, which has pushed for closer relations between the island and the mainland for more than ten years, the DPP has emphasized the importance of maintaining Taiwan's de facto independence and its identity as a sovereign state.

But Tsai appeared to veer away from that stance during remarks made at a press briefing in New York on Friday. Her remarks were reported in Taiwanese newspapers Sunday and confirmed by a party spokesman.

"I've said I do not exclude any possibility," Tsai was quoted as saying when asked whether she is open to unification with China. "As long as there is public support, Taiwan and China's future relations can remain open (to any possibility)."

Tsai's condition appears to be a difficult one to fulfill, at least for now. Taiwanese public opinion polls consistently show that only a small minority of the island's 23 million people support unification with China.

Tsai was speaking in the immediate wake of controversial remarks attributed to an unnamed senior American official cited by the Financial Times newspaper. The newspaper reported the official as criticizing Tsai's China policy as jeopardizing stability in the region.

Since taking office in May 2008, Ma, Tsai's opponent in the January presidential elections, has decreased tensions across the 100-mile (160-kilometer)-wide Taiwan Strait to their lowest level since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

Despite the improvement of relations, China has not renounced possible use of force to press its claim that Taiwan is part of its territory and needs to be returned to its fold.

Amid criticism that the anonymous U.S. official's reported comments constituted American interference in democratic Taiwan's electoral process, a State Department spokesman emphasized that the U.S. remains neutral in the Taiwanese presidential poll.