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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2008, 07:28 GMT
Taiwan victor promises China ties
Taiwan's President-elect Ma Ying-jeou at a news conference on Sunday
Mr Ma wants Taiwan to be a "peacemaker"
Taiwan's newly-elected president has pledged to establish better economic and political ties with China.

Ma Ying-jeou said he would like to work towards a peace treaty with Beijing, but would only do so if China removed missiles pointed at Taiwan.

He said he had no immediate plans to visit the mainland, but wanted to work on "substantive issues".

Mr Ma won a comfortable victory over Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on Saturday.

Official results gave Mr Ma 58.45% of the vote - an advantage of nearly 17 percentage points over Mr Hsieh.

Mr Ma, of the Kuomintang party, had stood on a platform of economic reform and improving relations with China.

I will make it crystal clear that Taiwan will be a stakeholder and will not rock the boat in the region.
Ma Ying-jeou

He ruled out an immediate visit to mainland China, but said he would focus on improving relations by "substantive" means including stepping up direct flights.

No incumbent president has visited the Chinese mainland since the Kuomintang was forced to retreat to Taiwan in 1949, as civil war broke out on the mainland.

On Saturday, Mr Ma said economic normalisation would take priority over concluding a peace treaty, which he said would be conditional on the removal of what Taiwan says are some 1,000 missiles aimed at the island.

In Sunday's further comments, he acknowledged that the issue of sovereignty was the most difficult problem affecting bilateral relations, adding that mutual recognition was "out of the question".

Instead, he proposed a middle road of "mutual non-denial" - "we will not deny their existence but we cannot recognise their sovereignty" over Taiwan, he said.

China says that Taiwan is part of its territory, although the two have been separately governed since 1949, and China has never ruled out using force against the island should it move towards formal independence.

US reaction

Mr Ma indicated that he would move away from the stance of arch-nationalist Chen Shui-bian, who steps down in May.

A supporter of Frank Hsieh in Taipei, 22 March 2008
Some of Mr Hsieh's supporters were tearful after the poll

"I will make it crystal clear that Taiwan will be a stakeholder and will not rock the boat in the region. By stakeholder, I mean peacemaker."

In Washington, President George W Bush greeted Mr Ma's victory.

"I believe the election provides a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences," he said.

Though Mr Hsieh had also pledged to build closer commercial ties with China, his approach was more cautious than his rival's.

Mr Ma now has a commanding mandate, as the Kuomintang controls two-thirds of the seats in parliament having won a sweeping victory in polls in January.

But analysts were split over how rapidly change might come, noting that Mr Ma would want to reassure voters that he was not selling out to China.

Mr Ma, 57 and educated at Harvard, put the promise of an economic revival at the centre of his election campaign.

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Many Taiwanese waiting to cast their votes identified the faltering economy as their top priority.

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Our GDP has been at a standstill for eight years. We need a clean government.
Liu, Taipei

"Our economic policy has three points," Mr Ma said. "One is to love Taiwan, another is infrastructure and industry and a third is to reach out to the whole world."

He has set ambitious growth targets - which some analysts say will not be met, unless his pledge to establish much closer economic ties with China is also fulfilled.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou celebrates



SEE ALSO
Choppy waters between China and Taiwan
22 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tibet focus for Taiwan election
21 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
China trade links are key in Taiwan poll
21 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan voters seek candidate of change
20 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Frank Hsieh
20 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Ma Ying-jeou
22 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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