February 26, 2016 / 2:55 AM / 2 years ago

China says Taiwan president-elect must respect constitution

BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen must respect the island’s own constitution that states Taiwan and the mainland are both part of one China, China’s foreign minister has said during a visit to Washington.

Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen speaks to journalists before visiting earthquake survivals at the hospital at Tainan, southern Taiwan February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

Beijing has warned against any moves towards independence since January’s landslide win by Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections and said it would defend its sovereignty.

Tsai has said she would maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media have also noted her pledges to maintain the “status quo” with China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, a former head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Tsai’s election was a normal political process that did not come as too big a surprise.”We do not care that much who is in power in the Taiwan region of China,” Wang said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Thursday, without directly using Tsai’s name. His comments were carried on the centre’s website.

“What we care about is, once someone has come into power, how he or she handles the cross-strait relationship, whether he or she will maintain the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, whether he or she will recommit to the political foundation of cross-strait relations, the one China principle,” he said.

Wang said he hoped that, before Tsai assumes power in May, she would indicate that she wants to pursue the peaceful development of ties and accept the provision in Taiwan’s own constitution that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China.

“It will be difficult to imagine that somebody elected on the basis of that constitution should try to do anything in violation of its own constitution,” Wang said.

DPP spokesman Ruan Chao-hsiung said Wang’s remarks were consistent with Tsai’s position, which was to maintain the status quo under the island’s constitutional framework.

“We hope to communicate with China in a more positive way in efforts to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait,” Ruan said.

Wang said Taiwan’s people wanted the peaceful development of ties, wanted Chinese tourists and business relations, and wanted to live in a climate of peace.

Asked about Wang’s comments, Dan Kritenbrink, Obama’s Asia adviser, reiterated Washington’s commitment to a “one-China policy.” The United States has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is committed under its Taiwan Relations Act to ensuring the island can defend itself in the event of conflict.

“We have a fundamental interest in preserving cross-strait stability,” Kritenbrink said at CSIS on Friday, adding that he hoped China and Taiwan would continue efforts in that direction.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Faith Hung in Taipei and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Paul Tait and David Gregorio

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