Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwan's new mainland policy planning head, Chen Ming-tong, regards the maintenance of cross-strait peace and stability as his priority in the coming year, when the island elects a new president.
He says that as the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) he must secure Taiwan's sovereignty and identity in the face of a diplomatic embargo from its huge and hostile neighbour—mainland China.
"The year 2008 will be a crucial year when Taiwan is to elect a new president, which is important for democratic and political developments in Taiwan," said the 51-year-old.
Rejecting claims by the opposition that his appointment might escalate cross-strait tensions, Mr Chen, from the pro-independence, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Joseph Wu Jau-shieh, in developing economic, commercial, cultural and social relations with the mainland.
He said that the Council’ current task was to speedily complete negotiations over the expansion of direct passenger and cargo flights with the mainland to improve relations and develop tourism.
But he stressed that safeguarding Taiwan's sovereignty and national dignity would be the foremost principle in any future negotiations with Beijing.
China and Taiwan are de facto separate since 1949 when Mao’s troops forced Chiang Kai-Shek’s army to flee the mainland. Since then Beijing has considered the island a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland by “any means.”