Taiwan President Nixes Dalai Lama Visit
By AP Wednesday, Dec. 03, 2008Print
Facebook Yahoo! Buzz Mixx Permalink Related (TAIPEI, Taiwan) — Taiwan's president on Wednesday ruled out a visit to his island by the Dalai Lama, a gesture likely to please rival China, and give new impetus to rapidly improving relations across the volatile Taiwan Strait.
The comments by Ma Ying-jeou followed reports earlier this week that the Tibetan spiritual leader wants to come to Taiwan in 2009, in what would be his third trip to the island in the past 11 years.
A Dalai Lama visit would have incensed China, which accuses him of working to undermine Chinese authority in Tibet, a Chinese autonomous region. It would also have threatened Ma's hallmark policy of reducing tensions with Beijing, the centerpiece of his six-month old presidency.
Speaking to foreign reporters in Taipei, Ma said that while Taiwan generally welcomed religious leaders' visits to Taiwan, the Dalai Lama's desire to come to the island could not now be accommodated.
"I think at the current moment the timing isn't appropriate for that," he said.
Ma didn't elaborate, but in his remarks to the reporters, he stressed his desire to expand on the wide-ranging economic agreements reached between the sides during an historic visit to Taiwan by a senior Chinese envoy early last month.
Those agreements include the initiation of direct flights and shipping across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait, and the resumption of postal links, broken nearly 60 years ago when the two sides split amid civil war.
Taiwan and Tibet share similar histories. Both are territories that Beijing believes should be under its rule. Despite a failed 1959 uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile, China controls Tibet and has refused the Tibetan religious leader's demand for greater autonomy.