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June 23, 2017

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Ma says meeting with Xi Jinping rests on popular approval

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that a meeting with Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) depends on the approval and support of the Taiwanese people.

The president made the above comment during an interview with Bloomberg News.

Ma said that if he were to meet Xi, he would meet him as president of the Republic of China, and that even though he hasn't excluded the possibility of meeting Xi before stepping down in 2016, the conditions for such an event are still not in place.

The most important factor is whether or not Taiwan needs such a meeting, whether or not such a meeting would be supported by the people, and whether or not the meeting can take place without compromising the R.O.C.'s dignity, the president said, adding that all of these are contingent upon the right conditions.

Many doubts over closer economic ties with mainland China have been misplaced, Ma said, adding that in 2010, some even went as far as describing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement as "sugar-coated poison."

Taiwan will maintain its policy of not allowing mainland Chinese laborers to work within its borders and prevent mainland Chinese investment in sensitive sectors, the president stressed.

Since 2003, mainland China has been Taiwan's biggest trade partner and export market, while more and more people realize that liberalization is a path that Taiwan must take, Ma said.

Speaking about the more than 1,100 missiles that mainland China is aiming at Taiwan, Ma said that removing them would not make much of a difference in strategic terms, because the missiles themselves are mobile, and can be redeployed soon after removal.

According to Bloomberg News, the president said that "the more than 1,100 Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan are less of an impediment to a meeting with (Xi) than whether talks would be backed by the island's people."

"Our relationship with mainland China is very subtle. We don't have a state-to-state relationship and we do not view mainland China as a foreign state," Ma said.

Citing the R.O.C. Constitution, the president said, "We are of course a sovereign nation."

With regard to Hong Kong, the president said, "We know that Hong Kong, after the handover to mainland China, has been trying for universal suffrage ... We know that mainland China has made promises and we're of course pleased to see Hong Kong changing in this direction."

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