(Recasts, adds comment from China’s top Taiwan official)
By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Chinese officials in charge of dealing with Taiwan issued a veiled warning on Thursday to the island’s pro-independence opposition that landmark trade deals signed over the last few years were at risk if they did not change their stance.
China has made little secret of its distaste for Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of January presidential elections on the self-ruled island, even as its candidate Tsai Ing-wen tries to lay out a more moderate line.
The Nationalist Party’s China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou has signed a series of economic and tourist agreements with Beijing since becoming president in 2008, and China will be hoping he gets re-elected and continues the rapprochement process.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the civil war with the Communists in 1949.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has also warned any attempt to formally announce independence would lead to war, a conflict which could also drag in the United States.
Chen Yunlin, head of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and its main negotiator with the island, said that progress made so far should be preserved.
“A basic condition for having gone down today’s path of peaceful development is that both sides have established mutual trust on a joint political basis,” the China News Service quoted him as saying during the latest round of bilateral economic talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin.
“If this political basis is abandoned, not only will it be hard for cross-Strait talks to continue, relations will also be seriously damaged, and the results that have been attained will be lost.”
Wang Yi, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said such talks could only take place based on the so-called “1992 consensus”, referring to Beijing’s cherished “one China” principle which includes Taiwan as part of China.
Beijing and Taipei agreed to their own interpretations of the “one China” principle and both sides subsequently held landmark talks in Singapore the following year. But the DPP does not recognise that a consensus was reached then.
“Recognising and maintaining this principle is the necessary condition for talks,” Xinhua cited Wang as telling Taiwan’s chief negotiator, Chiang Pin-kung. “Otherwise, the talks between the two sides will stop.”
Taiwan’s push for closer economic ties with China reached a milestone last year with the signing of an economic cooperation framework agreement trade deal that cut import tariffs on about 800 items.
Cross-investment agreements for the financial and high-tech industries are also eyed further down the track.
The DPP’s Tsai has said an administration led by her would pursue a “balanced, stable and moderate” policy towards China, shying away from the party’s previous strong anti-China words. .
But the Chinese government has repeatedly accused Tsai of still seeking Taiwan’s independence. (Editing by Nick Macfie)