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June 23, 2017

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Ma must forge PRC peace accord

During his journey of peace to China in 2005, Lien met Hu in Beijing to declare an end to the feud between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party in addition to expressing their desire to sign a peace agreement to end the perpetual enmity between Taiwan and China. On Lien's insistence, Ma put the peace agreement on his 2008 platform.

So far as international law is concerned, a war declared has to be formally ended by a peace agreement. The Chinese civil war was not a war between two sovereign states, the ending of which is governed by international law. But it is now because the People's Republic exists side by side with the Republic of China in Taiwan. The Korean War — call it a civil war if you will — was not declared, but technically is still going on, though there is no fighting thanks to a truce agreement, for no peace pact was signed. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan only a week before Tokyo accepted the Potsdam Declaration to unconditionally surrender to the Allies, but no peace agreement has been signed between the two countries to formally end their war and they are technically still at war against each other with the four Kurile islands of Shikotan, Etorofu, Kunashiri and Habomai still under Russian occupation.

And just as Japan has difficulty with Russia negotiating a peace treaty so Taipei does with Beijing to begin talks on a peace accord. The difficulty facing Beijing and Taipei is that of the rectification of names. Taiwan has to negotiate with China as an independent, sovereign state named the Republic of China while the People's Republic, with the endorsement of the United Nations, regards it as one of its provinces. But there is a modus operandi. There exist the "private-profit organizations" of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in Taipei and its Chinese counterpart Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). They have concluded 19 agreements in line with the modus vivendi of the "1992 Consensus," a tacit pact under which both Taipei and Beijing are agreed that there is but one China whose connotations can be orally and separately enunciated.

Can the SEF and the ARATS negotiate a peace accord, if the referendum is adopted? They can, if Beijing and Taipei are agreed. Hu Jintao — or his successor, for he has to step down next year and nobody knows how long it's going to take for both sides to come to the negotiating table — may have much less trouble than Ma, who is set to rule Taiwan for another four years, to solve the question of the rectification of names. Ma will face the strong opposition of the defeated Democratic Progressive Party.

Where there is a will, there is a way. If he honestly believes a peace accord has to be signed between Taiwan and China in the coming decade, Ma must initiate a referendum, which certainly will be adopted. The SEF and the ARATS can do the rest of the work. The new Legislative Yuan will ratify it to usher in a lasting peace across the Strait.

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