Ma: Peace agreement with mainland 'possible'

Updated: 2011-10-19 07:40

By Tan Zongyang (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said on Monday that the island should consider a peace treaty with the mainland in a decade if most residents on the island reach a consensus, a gesture that mainland experts said could be "a step to end cross-Straits antagonism".

Ma suggested a peace agreement with the mainland is possible when attending a press briefing in Taipei, but indicated that the agreement had to depend on preconditions, Xinhua News Agency reported.

One precondition for the agreement would be "a high level of support from Taiwan's public", Ma said at the briefing, where he outlined his policy for the next 10 years and gave an outlook of cross-Straits relations.

In addition, the peace treaty would be signed when "absolutely needed" and has to be done under the supervision of Taiwan's "parliament", Ma was quoted as saying.

The 61-year-old Taiwan leader, who is up for re-election in January, said the agreement will be reached "under prudence" after the two sides have sufficient trust.

"Ma has made his attitude clear that the island prefers peace rather than war," Ni Yongjie, a scholar at the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, told China Daily.

Ni said this is the strongest indication that Ma intends to push the idea of a treaty - which he first brought up in 2008 - into a reality during a possible second term.

But the expert questioned Ma's timetable.

"Ma has not defined what 'a high level of support' is nor mentioned how to measure it," said Ni, adding that the ambiguity has made the idea a rather remote prospect.

Although relations between Taiwan and the mainland have warmed through closer economic ties since Ma took office in 2008, military tensions remain on both sides of the Straits.

"The agreement should be the first step to end cross-Straits antagonism, which paves the way for a peaceful national reunification in the future," said Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

On Tuesday, Ma was quoted by Taiwan-based Central News Agency as saying that the peace agreement does not imply the island is negotiating with the mainland about reunification.

Li said Ma Ying-jeou, who is now facing a fierce battle for re-election, might not be able to give a clear timetable for this peace agreement at the time being for fear of losing votes.