Taipei, Mar. 9 (CNA) Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian told visiting Japanese scholars Friday that he is concerned about Beijing's leadership succession in the autumn of 2002 because of the possible effects it may have on Taiwan, Japan and the United States.
Speaking at a meeting with Tomoyuki Kojima and Junchi Abe, East Asian experts from Keio University, Chen said the smoothness of the succession--or lack thereof--will have an impact on Taipei-Beijing relations and the interests of various countries in the region.
Whether the new leader will be overly conservative on cross-Taiwan Strait issues, and whether mainland China will continue its arms buildup and missile deployments are issues that deserve attention, he added.
Chen also revealed his concern about the possibility that mainland China's military expansion might finally upset the cross-strait military balance by 2005. He said that the United States should continue to provide Taiwan with necessary defensive weapons in line with the Taiwan Relations Act so as to ensure security in the Taiwan Strait.
However, he added that security in the strait cannot rely on military advances alone, but must also include political, social, economic and energy reforms that tie into the nation's security strategy as well as that of the entire Asia Pacific region.
Chen noted that Taiwan is in an important strategic location and that it has trade relations with both Southeast and Northeast Asia. However, he added that he is also concerned about Taiwan being marginalized and kept out of trade dialogue mechanisms in both regions.
He told the visitors that his government maintains good relations with the United States, adding that officials friendly to both the Republic of China and Japan have been tapped to serve in the new Bush administration.
The three nations share common interests in maintaining security and stability in the Asia Pacific region, and how to work together will be an important issue of discussion from now on, he added.
Chen said that permanent peace in the Taiwan Strait should be a common goal for leaders on both sides, but that the first step toward reaching such a goal must be "a handshake and reconciliation."
He noted that he has repeatedly expressed his goodwill to Beijing since taking office last May, and added that he hopes Beijing will understand the doubts of the people of Taiwan and their determination to "be their own boss and make their own decisions." He suggested that the two sides begin with trade and cultural integration to gradually establish mutual trust, before progressively seeking out a new framework for political integration and permanent cross-strait peace.
Touching on the peace talks between North and South Korea, Chen said that he supports the negotiations and believes that reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula has a "certain degree of significance and benefit" for other countries in the Asia Pacific region.
However, he went on to warn South Korea that it should carefully consider the possible threats and influences that come with increasing mainland Chinese influence on the peninsula, which Chen said might lead to the gradual withdrawal of the U.S. presence.