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High political price paid over US beef issue: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday met with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, and said that the administration has paid a great political price to solve the U.S. beef issue, indicating the government's determination to pursue trade liberalization.

The president also explained that cross-strait ties and the development of Taiwan-U.S. relations are complimentary rather than contradictory, and that the R.O.C. will not exclude the possibility of future arms deals with the U.S., while continuing to improve its ties with mainland China.

Ma stressed that a peaceful resolution between the two sides of the Strait remains Taiwan's first line of national defense.

In September 2012, U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton told former Vice President Lien Chan that trade talks between Washington and Taipei would likely begin soon, Ma said.

The president added that during his term in office, the U.S. had agreed to sell Taiwan US$18.3 billion worth of weaponry, which is the highest amount over the past two decades.

Taiwan has also given its cooperation to the U.S. with regard to the Megaports Initiative and Washington's counterterrorism efforts, Ma said, adding that since the U.S. included Taiwan in its visa-waiver program, the number of Taiwanese traveling to the U.S. has increased substantially.

Murkowski reportedly asked Ma about the condition of former President Chen Shui-bian.

Ma explained that Chen is not a political prisoner, and that the ex-president was imprisoned after being convicted of his crimes through due process.

The former president is being treated medically in accordance with regulations, the president added.

In addition to asking about Chen, Murkowski also brought up the subject of regional stability in East Asia, according to local reports.

Besides meeting the president, the senator also met with opposition leader Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), as well as Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.

Murkowski is scheduled to leave Taiwan today.

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