- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s president-elect said yesterday that a historic weekend meeting between his No. 2 and China’s paramount leader was a step forward in their troubled relations, but insisted that he would not use “haste” in dealing with Beijing.

Ma Ying-jeou’s comments were his first about the Saturday meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Taiwanese Vice President-elect Vincent Siew during an economic conference in the southern Chinese city of Boao.

Mr. Ma hoped the meeting would deliver an early dividend after he scored a landslide victory March 22 on the strength of promises to jump-start Taiwan’s sputtering economy by hitching it to China’s economic boom.

Still, Mr. Ma’s comments appeared to dampen expectations of an early breakthrough in relations with China, which have been in a deep freeze since pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian assumed office in Taipei in 2000.

The vast majority of Taiwanese oppose unification with the mainland — the ultimate goal of China’s Taiwan policy — and Mr. Ma has assured the island’s 23 million people that he will not discuss the issue during his presidency.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, the incoming president said that the weekend meeting was a “step forward” in relations with Beijing, and promised that after his inauguration on May 20 he would push for the reopening of formal communications channels with the mainland.

Those channels have been closed since the late 1990s.

Still, the Nationalist Party standard-bearer took pains to acknowledge that progress between the sides would likely be slow.

“There’s still a long way to go, and we will move forward at a stable pace, never in haste,” Mr. Ma said, adding that he had no plans to visit either China or the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

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