President Ma Ying-jeou met on the morning of December 24 with US Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Mrs. Lowenthal. In addition to thanking Congressman Lowenthal for speaking on behalf of Taiwan over the years, the president also expressed hope for further depth in the relationship between Taiwan and the United States.
In remarks, President Ma first stated that in August of this year he made transit stops in New York and Los Angeles when he traveled to visit allies in Latin America and the Caribbean. He said that he received an extremely high level of courtesy from the United States on these stopovers, adding that he had an enjoyable meal with Congressman Lowenthal and Mrs. Lowenthal, which made a deep impression on him. President Ma commented that Congressman Lowenthal is a staunch friend to Taiwan and has a long history of speaking on behalf of our nation. He supported participation for Taiwan in the International Civil Aviation Organization, for example, and made a statement in commemoration of the 34th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act. The government and people of the ROC will also remember these gestures, said the president.
As for relations between Taiwan and the United States, President Ma stated, over the past five years the United States has approved sales of over US$18.3 billion of arms to Taiwan, which is the most in the past 20 years. Recently, P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft and AH-64E Apache helicopters that Taiwan ordered from the United States have begun to be delivered, the president said. In addition, in November of last year, the United States included Taiwan in its Visa Waiver Program, which has paved the way for even more frequent interaction by the two sides, he noted. Furthermore, the president remarked, in February of this year Taiwan and the United States signed revisions to the Agreement on Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities, followed by a resumption of negotiations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in March. All of these developments indicate concrete progress between Taiwan and the United States in the fields of security and economic ties, he commented.
President Ma explained to Congressman Lowenthal that former Vice President Vincent C. Siew (蕭萬長) this past October attended the 21st APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on his behalf and engaged in bilateral discussions with US Secretary of State John F. Kerry. The two exchanged in-depth opinions on economic and trade cooperation and Taiwan's desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Then in mid-November, he added, former Vice President Siew led a delegation of business leaders to the United States, where they met with important American counterparts and expressed Taiwan's willingness to invest in the United States. The delegation from Taiwan also indicated its support for the SelectUSA investment initiative, the president said.
As for the improvement in cross-strait relations, President Ma stated, over the past five years Taiwan and mainland China have signed 19 agreements and reached consensus on two issues. The number of flights between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has increased from just the occasional chartered flight to 95 scheduled flights daily, he said. In addition, the number of mainland Chinese students coming to study in Taiwan has increased from only 800 prior to his taking office in 2008 to 20,000 at present, the president noted, adding that an improvement in cross-strait relations constitutes the first line of defense for Taiwan. Nonetheless, the ROC will not relax in its efforts to ensure military preparedness, as peace is maintained by being strong, he commented. In the future, the president said, Taiwan will continue to maintain close security, trade, and economic ties with the United States.