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KMT chief eyes peace agreement with mainland
Updated: 2006-02-14 14:28

TAIPEI - The leader of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has said he would reopen talks and aim to sign a peace agreement with the mainland if his party regained power in the next "presidential" election.

Ma Ying-jeou, seen by many as the opposition's best bet for victory in the 2008 polls, said in a speech that moves by local politicians to promote what he called unilateral secession could be a recipe for disaster. 

Addressing audiences at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Monday, Ma said the KMT would seek to resume talks with the mainland, stalled since 1999, if it won back the "presidency".

"The intermediate goal, though, is for both sides to negotiate and put into effect a viable peace agreement that can serve as a framework guiding cross-Strait interactions in decades ahead," said Ma, who also serves as the mayor of capital Taipei.

The KMT, or Nationalists, once ruled all of China and fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in 1949. The party enjoyed uninterrupted rule of the island until 2000, when it lost to Chen's DPP.

Beijing refuses to deal with "president" Chen Shui-bian, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stands for an independent Taiwan identity. Chen cannot run for "president" again as he is already in his second term.

Mindful of a growing consciousness in Taiwan identity, Ma said the KMT supported the political status quo and had no timetable for reunification with the mainland.

"Since Taiwan has become a full-fledged democracy, reunification with mainland cannot proceed without the consent of Taiwanese people," Ma said.

"Therefore, as of now, there is no timetable for reunification; nor is there any urgency for such a move on either side of the Taiwan Strait," said the popular Ma, once voted Taiwan's sexiest man and most popular politician.

Chen has said Ma's pro-unification stance prompted him to order a review of 15-year-old official guidelines on unification in a bid to shake off Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Chen said last month that it was time to consider scrapping the island's "National Unification Council" and its guidelines on unification with the mainland. His comments have alarmed Washington and angered Beijing.

Local media said a decision was expected soon, possibly by the end of February.

The council was set up in 1990 by the KMT administration and was once the island's top policy-making body on the issue of unification. But it has been dormant since Chen took office.

An opinion poll by cable news network TVBS last week showed 49 percent of 1,136 respondents opposed scrapping the council and the guidelines. Fifty-seven percent said they were worried relations with the mainland would worsen if Taiwan decided to do so.

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