Taiwan's president will open political talks with China if he is re-elected to a second term, a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks cites Taiwan's vice president as saying.
Vincent Siew's June 2009 statement to then de facto American ambassador Stephen Young is the clearest indication so far by a senior official that President Ma Ying-jeou would expand on existing economic talks if he is re-elected in January.
The issue is a sensitive one decades after Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China still claims Taiwan as its own and threatens the use of force if Taipei delays unification indefinitely.
Since the Nationalist Party's Ma took office in May 2008, he has significantly improved ties with China by facilitating several trade agreements.
Public opinion polls give Ma a small lead over Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen in the January 14 elections. Tsai and her party say Ma is moving too far and too fast in his bid to improve relations with China, threatening Taiwan's de facto independence in the process.
For his part, Ma says the DPP nominee lacks a coherent policy for dealing with Beijing.
The WikiLeaks cable, dated June 30, 2009, quoted Siew as saying that political talks during a possible Ma second term would address key issues including "a peace treaty, a formal end to hostilities, and development of bilateral military confidence mechanisms" with China.
In the past, Ma has conditioned the opening of political discussions with Beijing on China's removal of the estimated 1,300 missiles it has aimed at Taiwanese targets. However, there was no mention of this condition in the cable.
In public statements, Ma has usually been vague on the China political talks issue, saying that until more progress is made on economic questions _ the centerpiece of his 3 1/2 year administration _ there was no need to consider the political side.
However, he has acknowledged in private conversations that China might be forcing his hand.
In a separate WikiLeaks cable dated Dec. 15, 2009, he told a senior U.S. defense official that activities by China's People's Liberation Army could convince the island to enter into political talks with Beijing.