Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou told a Chinese official Thursday that Beijing and Taipei must do everything possible to avoid a war.
Ma met with Song Tao, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Ma arrived in China on Monday, making him the first former or sitting Taiwanese leader to visit the mainland since Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang (KMT) forces fled to Taiwan in 1949.
“The two sides must maintain exchanges, cooperate together, and do everything possible to avoid war and conflict,” Ma told Song.
According to Xinhua, Song said during the meeting that people in China and Taiwan should “resolutely oppose Taiwan independence separatist activities and interference from external forces, and jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”
Ma’s bid to ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait comes ahead of another potential escalation as Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, is expected to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in California on April 5.
Taiwan doesn’t expect China to react as intensely to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting as it did to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which sparked Beijing’s largest-ever military drills around the island. But China has made clear it will respond in some way, and US military forces in the Asia Pacific are working under a heightened state of alert.
The White House has tried to portray Tsai’s travel as a “routine” trip as there is a precedent for Taiwanese leaders stopping in the US. But according to The Washington Post, Tsai’s planned meeting with McCarthy would make the House Speaker the highest-level US official to ever meet with a Taiwanese president on US soil.
Both Ma and Tsai’s travels preview the platforms their respective parties will run on concerning mainland China in the upcoming 2024 presidential elections. Ma’s Kuomintang party will likely run on reducing tensions with Beijing, while Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party will tout its stronger relations with Washington.