Over the weekend (16 March 2006), Ma Ying-Jeou, the leader of Taiwan’s main opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT) joined a group of 20,000 demonstrators inTaipei, demanding that Taiwan President Chen Shui-Bian stopped provoking China (as Chen did in ceasing the functions of National Unification Council) and instead focused on economic development.
This followed a huge rally by the Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) the day before where Beijing was criticised for attempting to annex Taiwan. James Soong, the leader of pro-unification People’s First Party (PFP) which organised the demonstration, criticised Chen for pushing a huge arms deal with the US despite the current economic difficulties in Taiwan.
Even as Taiwan grapples with how to deal with the increasing importance of China, the cross- Straits issue is also being discussed by other neighbouring countries.
Over the weekend, US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice has met up with the Foreign Ministers of Japan and Australia to discuss amidst other matters, China. A new US envoy to Taiwan, Stephen Young has also pledged to work with Taiwan to improve US-Taiwan relations as well as to help to manage the tense cross-straits relations. Young is the new head of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the defacto American embassy in Taiwan.
The Chinese embassy in Manila has called on the Philippines and the international community to oppose Chen Shui-Bian’s “very dangerous” move towards Taiwanese independence. The deputy chief of mission and political counsellor, Deng Xijun said on 16 March 2006, “We appeal to the Philippines and other foreign countries to stop Chen. We value the support of the ASEAN countries in this matter.” However, he added that China would oppose any interference by other countries on this “Taiwan issue” which is an internal affair of China.
This was probably in response to the earlier statements by the Taiwanese Ambassador to the Philippines, Hsin-Hsing Wu who had warned the Philippines of Chinese military arrogance. Wu pointed to the example of China virtual invasion of the Mischief Reef and some of the islands in the disputed Spratly. Wu also warned that “China is very much capable of lobbing missiles in Taiwan, including the Philippines and other neighbouring countries. I think this is a possibility that you should also treat seriously.” This comment came in the wake of another recent report that Taiwan “may put troops back in the Spratlys”.
China has consistently insisted that the “Taiwan issue” is an internal affair of China and that other states should not interfere. However, it is also increasingly clear that this “internal” affair is increasingly internationalised.
Taiwan Government Urges to Practice [Sic] “Active Management” on China FDI, (Asia Pulse, 20 March 2006)
Thousands Tell Chen to Halt Beijing Provocation; More than 20,000 Protestors Gather to Demand the Island’s President Focus on the economy, (South China Morning Post, 20 March 2006)
US Envoy Pledges to Stand-Side-By-Side with Taiwan, (China Post, 19 March 2006)
Taiwan Move Dangerous- China, (Manila Standard, 18 March 2006)
Taiwan Warns of China Threat, (Manila Standard, 14 March 2006)
Taiwan may put troops back in the Spratlys (Straits Times, 17 March 2006)