The opposition candidate in Taiwan’s presidential elections tried to ease fears Tuesday that a victory for her would lead to more tensions with China, saying she would seek peace with Beijing.
Tsai Ing-wen, who noted opinion polls showed “a real possibility” that she would defeat incumbent Ma Ying-jeou in the January 14 vote, also said she would focus more on US relations than the current China-friendly government.
“We understand that there are some people who are worried about our victory,” said Tsai, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which favours independence from China.
“I will do what we can, without compromising Taiwan’s fundamental interests, to ease tensions and foster an atmosphere where dialogue and interaction is possible,” she told the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.
China, which claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, has largely refrained from commenting openly on the election, fearing it might backfire, but it is widely believed to prefer Ma’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party.
The KMT aims to strengthen ties with China, especially on the economic front.
When Tsai visited the United States in September, she reportedly left doubts in the US administration that she would maintain the current stable ties with China if elected.
“I will place great effort in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai told the chamber members.
“This is my responsibility towards the 23 million people in Taiwan and our responsibility as a member of the Asia-Pacific region.”
Until recently, Ma was leading in the polls, but the margin has shrunk and the two are tied with 39 percent support each, according to the latest poll of 1,320 people conducted by cable news channel TVBS last week.
The United States, Taiwan’s key ally and main arms supplier despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties, has repeatedly hailed the easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait since Ma took office in 2008.
However, Tsai argued that the Ma administration moved much faster to develop ties with China than with the US and vowed to “restore balance in our trilateral relations.”
“I, like the majority of the Taiwanese people, cherish and value the close and stable US-Taiwan relationship we have always shared… I should strengthen and promote Taiwan and US exchanges,” she said.