Taiwan Party That Won Election Wants US Help with China

By Matthew Pennington 20 January 2016

WASHINGTON — Taiwan’s new government will carefully manage relations with mainland China and it wants Washington to keep encouraging reconciliation, a senior official of the victorious party said Tuesday.

Joseph Wu is secretary-general of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. He is meeting with senior US officials this week following the party’s commanding victory in elections on the self-governing island Saturday. The DPP defeated the Nationalist Party that has forged closer ties with the mainland during its eight-year tenure.

The result was widely seen as a setback to Beijing, but Wu said his party’s presidential nominee, Tsai Ing-wen, has made clear she wants to maintain the status quo and safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

“We will do our utmost to find a mutually acceptable mode of interaction between Taiwan and the mainland, one that avoids confrontation and prevents surprises,” Wu told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

Those remarks will be welcomed by the Obama administration. The United States is Taiwan’s most important ally and source of defensive arms but it has applauded the easing of cross-Strait relations under the outgoing Nationalist government. China claims the island as its own territory and threatens to use force if Taiwan declares formal independence.

“We would need the United States to continue to encourage the two sides to speak with each other,” Wu said, adding that Washington can play a “balancing role” so Taiwan is “not dangling out there alone dealing with China.”

Wu characterized Beijing’s reaction to the election as “measured,” but it has already warned that it will not budge on its bottom line that Taiwan’s leader must agree that the communist mainland and democratic island are part of a single Chinese nation. Tsai has refused to endorse Beijing’s “one China principle” but hasn’t publicly repudiated it either.

Wu said a top priority for the new administration would be for legislation laying out the guiding principles for cross-Strait relations so there is more transparency in its dealings with Beijing. Opposition to a services trade agreement with China spawned major protests in 2014 by Taiwanese students and civic groups who occupied the national legislature.

Wu said Taiwan would look to strengthen relations with the US, Japan and the European Union, and pursue membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a US-backed free trade pact. He said if China sought to pressure smaller member of the 12-nation pact to oppose Taiwan’s inclusion it would hurt cross-Strait relations.