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Ma becomes 12th president today

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan ushers in the "Era of Ma Ying-jeou" today as Ma is formally inaugurated as the 12th president of the Republic of China. Ma expressed optimism yesterday about the future of cross-strait relations, with the prospects of his investiture slated for today.

Yet, Ma described his state of mind as "treading on thin ice and standing upon the edge of an abyss," and vowed to remain prudent and cautious while implementing his campaign promises.

He made the remarks at the Kuomintang headquarters ahead of a meeting with visiting Chinese American leaders of the U.S. Committee of 100, who are here to observe the second changeover of power between political parties in Taiwan history.

"It represents a new opportunity for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to interact more openly with each other, and further engage in active exchanges now that a new Kuomintang administration has replaced the (Democratic Progressive Party's) government," Ma was quoted as saying.

The president-elect reportedly told the delegation that with closer relations between Taiwan and China, mutual understanding between people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait would increase significantly.

He stressed that direct cross-strait charter flight services are expected to begin in July, and Chinese students would be allowed to pursue advanced studies in Taiwan in the near future.

"A deeper understanding (between the Taiwanese and Chinese) would facilitate the development of cross-strait relations," he allegedly said.

Accordingly, Ma explained to his guests that locally published textbooks of classical Chinese literature have been increasingly used by Chinese teachers.

"I hope that in the near future, younger Chinese generations would at least be able to read traditional Chinese characters if they cannot write them," he reportedly added.

Wang Yu-chi is poised to become the Presidential Office spokesperson after Ma's investiture. However, he declined to comment on whether the incoming president would hand out an olive branch to Beijing by spelling out concrete goodwill measures in his 20-minute-long inaugural speech.

"You will see tomorrow," Ma also said.

Further, former President Lee Teng-hui announced his last minute participation in Ma's investiture ceremony. Out of respect for the 85-year-old father of Taiwan democracy, Lee would be specially allowed to join in the ceremony three hours after the other guests, who must pass through the various safety gates before 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, well-rounded preparations have been made to smoothen Ma's inauguration.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin made an inspection tour of Taipei Arena yesterday morning to examine all the relevant, final preparations by different units in charge.

Director Wang Cho-chiun of the Taipei City Police Department told Hau that his department would deploy over 2,000 policemen to monitor transportation conditions and safeguard the surroundings of the venue for the inauguration ceremony.

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 Ma becomes 12th president today 
President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, center, offers his hand to an employee of the soon-to-be ruling Kuomintang (KMT) during a celebration held yesterday at the KMT headquarters. Ma will officially become the president of Taiwan today. (CNA)

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