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Disputes in the South China Sea; Interview with Taiwanese President Ma; Imagine a World. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired March 25, 2016 - 23:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: our exclusive interview with President Ma of Taiwan on relations with his giant Mainland

China neighbor and his role in the growing tensions in the South China Sea.


MA YING-JEOU, PRESIDENT, REPUBLIC OF CHINA (through translator): We have effectively controlled Taiping Island for 60 years.

Simply put, we want to let the whole world understand the truth.


AMANPOUR: Plus: terror in Europe and finger-pointing after the security failure. We asked why so many intelligence red flags were missed

ahead of this week's attack on Brussels.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The island nation of Taiwan has a complex relationship with Mainland China. It's known officially as the Republic of China and it's fiercely

defended its status as the free part of China since the 1949 civil war.

President Ma, my exclusive guest tonight, has worked hard to improve relations with the mainland and he's held a historic meeting last year with

President Xi.

But what will Xi Jinping make of Ma's successor, President-Elect Tsai, who takes over in May after winning a landslide election this January?

Her party is strongly pro-independence. In a moment, my exclusive interview with President Ma.

But first, as if there aren't enough tensions, Taiwan also claims some of the disputed islands in the South China Sea. And earlier this week, our

senior correspondent, Ivan Watson, made a rare trip to see for himself.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The contested waters of the South China Sea, seen from a Taiwanese military

plane. And this is what greets you when you land at Taiping, an island controlled by Taiwan.

WATSON: Taiping is a tiny island. It basically runs the length of this runway. The Taiwanese government first laid claim to this place more

than half a century ago. But this is the very first time, the government says, that journalists have been invited to see it first-hand. And it's at

a time when tensions are ratcheting up here in the South China Sea.

WATSON (voice-over): At least six different countries have competing claims for this body of water. But China claims almost all of it. And to

cement China's claim, Beijing has been building a series of manmade islands atop reefs and atolls in the hotly disputed Spratly Archipelago. It's

making the neighbors nervous.

BRUCE LANGHI (PH), TAIWAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: We are opposed to militarization or military expansionism in the area.

WATSON (voice-over): Enter the U.S. Navy. We caught up with the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis shortly after it sailed through the South

China Sea, performing an unmistakable show of U.S. force.


REAR ADM. RONALD BOXALL (PH), U.S. NAVY: Just being there in the South China Sea shows that we believe we have the right to operate in

international waters, all ships, not just military vessels but civilian vessels.

WATSON (voice-over): Washington calls this visits "freedom of navigation operations" and they clearly irritate the Chinese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): This is the Chinese Navy. This is the Chinese Navy. Please go away quickly.

WATSON (voice-over): Last year, CNN accompanied a U.S. Navy spyplane that flew over China's manmade islands.

Beijing expressed outrage, issuing formal protests and calling these operations "a very serious provocation."

So where do smaller claimants like Taiwan fit in?

On Taiping, officials showed off the island's chickens and goats as well as supplies of fresh water. If Taiwan proves Taiping can sustain

human life, then the Taiwanese can make the case for a potentially lucrative 200-nautical mile economic exclusion zone around the island.

WATSON: Amid the contest for control of the South China Sea, Taiwan is trying to demonstrate that it, too, is a player and should not be

overlooked. Meanwhile, other small countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are reaching out to the U.S. for help at counterbalancing China

as it continues to flex its naval muscle in this contested body of water.

WATSON (voice-over): A place that feels like a tropical paradise is instead becoming part of a much bigger regional power struggle -- Ivan

Watson, CNN, Taiping Island in the South China Sea.


AMANPOUR: So with these mounting tensions and with just two months left in office, I asked President Ma about these moves and, of course,

about how China and Taiwan will coexist under his successor. President Ma joined me for a farewell interview exclusively from Taipei.


AMANPOUR: President Ma, welcome to the program.

MA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you the news of the moment. Of course, there are quite a few countries in your neighborhood unhappy with

your moves on the island in the Spratlys, particularly Itu Aba.

They are unhappy that you have been there and that this week you have taken a group of journalists, including, of course, our own colleague, as

we've just seen in his report.

MA (through translator): On January 28th, I went to Taiping Island and later I arranged the media from home and abroad to visit Taiping

Island, hoping the world will better understand the truthful situation there and will not be misled.

And the facts should not be distorted. And this is critically important as president of the ROC. I have to do it.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you say you have to do it and the facts are indisputable. But, of course, as you know, there's a lot of dispute about

the Spratly Islands. Philippines are angry with you; Vietnam is angry with you; the United States called your visit there "extremely unhelpful" to the


So the question is, are you being provocative?

Are you doing China's bidding?

Because it's about the only country that hasn't criticized you.

MA (through translator): In 1946, the ROC recovered Taiping Island. Back at that time, Vietnam or the Philippines did not show any opinion. In

1956, we started to station our troops there all the way until now. We have effectively controlled Taiping Island for 60 years.

Authorities (ph), of course, want issue. But the reason why we went to Taiping Island, the more important task for us, our visitors, that we

don't want Taiping Island or we do not want the permanent court of arbitration to diminish the legal status of the island into a rock.

Simply put, we want to let the whole world understand the truth.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, this is obviously going to be something that you will bequeath to your successor, President-Elect Tsai.

But I would like to ask you in the remaining month or so, two months of your presidency, to reflect on why your party lost and to reflect on

your reachout to China, your China policy, your trade pacts, that that seemed to have had a backlash inside Taiwan.

Do you read it that way as well?

MA (through translator): Some people in Taiwan opposed to our mainland policy but that only accounts for a small proportion, not a

majority. On the January 26th presidential election, we all understand that, over the past eight years of my presidency, we have created a status

quo. And this status quo --


MA (through translator): -- has won the support from the majority.

AMANPOUR: How do you think Mainland China, President Xi, is interpreting her election right now?

What do you think he is thinking about this new president, which -- who has, potentially, slightly different views than you do when it comes to

relations with the mainland?

MA (through translator): Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping, over the past year, stressed on several occasions that the 1992 Consensus was a key.

In this way, of course, we hope that my successor will carefully think about supporting the 1992 Consensus.

Therefore, cross-strait ties will move ahead smoothly so when Taiwan tries to develop its international relations or their respective, we can

face a more friendly environment.

AMANPOUR: Do you accept, though, that despite the feelings of the majority of the Taiwanese people, that there is a new generation now

feeling more nationalistic, feeling more inclined to being a full-blown democracy, as your country is showing that it's maturing from a

dictatorship into a full-blown democracy?

Do you believe that they will -- that things might change in the future or will it stay as it is like right now?

MA (through translator): I believe that the people's Taiwan would support a free and democratic political system in hopes that the Republic

of China will continue to become free and democratic.

However, while we develop relations with Mainland China, we have to establish a mutually accepted consensus so that this relationship will move

ahead peacefully and smoothly.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you had a historic meeting with the president of China, Xi Jinping, in Singapore.

How was that?

How did you feel, meeting the president of Mainland China?

I believe it was the first time in nearly 50 years that two leaders had met.

MA (through translator): On November 7th last year, I went to Singapore to meet with Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping. This marked the

very first time for leaders from both sides to meet ever since both sides were under the rule of different governments, 66 years ago.

It's not only symbolic because, in other respects, including using Taiwan as a passage for mainland tourists and allowing Mainland China's

vocational students to study in Taiwan and to continue the negotiation for trade and goods agreement, I proposed all these important points to Mr. Xi

and also Mainland China's military deployment and Taiwan's suppression from Mainland China in the international community.

I also call upon Mr. Xi to propose some policies to improve the situation. On these occasions, we have, frankly, put forth these questions

and hoping each other could work hard to move toward a better direction.

And I believe this: it was a wonderful opportunity, in particular, when I established this high-level cross-strait bridge of peace for leaders

from both sides.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, did you get the impression that President Xi would use all means necessary to keep Taiwan really part of China?

Or, as others have suggested, that he will go along with what increasingly looks like a one-party fiction, One China fiction?

MA (through translator): During the discussion, Mr. Xi and I both understood that both sides across the Taiwan Strait did not have the

conditions for unification.

But I also want to tell Mr. Xi that the One China respective interpretations we adhere to, we will not engage in two Chinas, one China,

one Taiwan or Taiwan independence. Our interpretation will be based on the ROC constitution. That is the Republic of China.

Mainland China always wanted to reunite with Taiwan and it has never given up the idea.

But they also have to reach consensus with Taiwan so that both sides can continue to move ahead peacefully and prosperously in the future

because, in the past, no Mainland Chinese leader would like to sit down with a leader from the ROC, to forget about their titles and the name of

the country and to have one or two hours of conversation and to talk about some practical or theoretical issues to reach some consensus.

This for Taiwan, for the region and for the world is also conducive.

The U.S. State Department also expressed its welcome because the improvement of cross-strait ties is also very important factor for us to

improve relationship with the United States. If we can make good use of it, then Taiwan -- and for Taiwan for the region and --


MA (through translator): -- for the world, it has created positive effect because most of the comments on the Ma-Xi (ph) meeting are positive.

AMANPOUR: On that note, President Ma Ying-Jeou, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Taiwan. Thank you indeed.

MA: Thank you, Ms. Amanpour. Hope to see you again.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, the story that's dominated the headlines this week, ISIS attacking Brussels, the third major attack on a

European city in 15 months. We asked the E.U. counterterrorism chief why these wanted men slipped through the net.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Shock, sadness and even anger this week as ISIS blows up in the very heart of Europe. And the same scenes played out again in that familiar

loop that we have seen since the Paris attacks. The massive influx of migrants and refugees makes security more difficult and the ongoing wars in

Syria and Iraq provide training grounds and easy access to weapons.

But the question remains why, after Paris, did Belgian authorities fail to connect the dots?

I asked Gilles de Kerchove, E.U. counterterrorism coordinator, who joined me this week from Brussels.


AMANPOUR: Mr. de Kerchove, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Who could have believed that something like this under such a microscope, especially since France, especially since the capture of

Abdeslam, who could have thought that something like this would have happened.

And I do want to ask you because Interpol has now just said that a red notice for one of the Bakraoui brothers, Khalid El Bakraoui who was the

metro bomber, Interpol had a standing red notice for him and also for another one of those who is linked with him, Najim Laachraoui.

I mean, honestly, why is it that this man was not picked up?

DE KERCHOVE: I cannot answer the question myself. I would say when you confront the two people ready to die, to blow themselves up, it's

extremely difficult to prevent. We have done a lot of progress in terms of information sharing, in terms of border management. But still it's not

enough, it seems so.

AMANPOUR: The Turkish authorities, apparently President Erdogan, has said today that, in June of 2015, Turkey detained and later deported one of

the individuals behind the attack in Brussels. He said Belgium authorities had failed to confirm the suspect's links to terrorism, despite our

warnings. They knew, according to Turkey, and they failed, Mr. de Kerchove

DE KERCHOVE: Well, you see, I am not aware of this and I don't know if it's accurate or not. I will try to get that confirmation from the

Belgians. I cannot really comment on this. This is -- you know, we are confronted not only to 2 or 3 dozens of people. We're here in the

hundreds, if not in the thousands of people who went to Syria and Iraq. And that makes a -- the job much more different than before.

AMANPOUR: OK, you're absolutely right; Belgium proportionately has the most number of jihadis going to Syria and more than 100 have come back

to Belgium, probably a lot of them in Brussels.


AMANPOUR: But, again, you have this success earlier by getting this fugitive Paris ringleader or organizer, Abdeslam. And under your noses or

under the noses of the Belgian authorities, another cell with heavy weapons, high-caliber explosives, is planning and, in fact, carried out the

devastating attack yesterday. It beggars belief.

What is your solution?

What do you, the authorities, have to face this war?

DE KERCHOVE: Again, I'm sorry to -- it's boring to repeat always the same. But more, more of the same, quicker and more forcefully. I have --

I am asked to report to the heads of state and government nearly every two months, three months on how member states are populating the database, how

they maximize the different European platforms, like Europol, like the Schengen information system.

We are not fully there yet. And I do my best to put pressure, to report, to confront ministers with the blunt figures. And we are making

progress. But not quickly enough, I have to acknowledge this.

And what can you say when you have been witnessing that terrible attack?

AMANPOUR: And so what do you suggest, then, is the solution?

People are suggesting that the whole security response needs to be reinvented.

DE KERCHOVE: It is true. I have said that before, that maybe the country, because of a huge debt and the need to save money, maybe has not

invested in the security sector the way it should. And this is no fix by the current government. So a lot of money is not earmarked to improve


But it's not only Belgium. It's the way the member states work together. Tomorrow, minister of interior, we meet in the afternoon and we

spend the whole day brainstorming on exactly what is it that they want to say and discuss.

And at the core of it, it's, again, the way we will use the database and share information in Europe, mobilize all the players, the security

players in the law enforcement agency.

Over the years we have set up specific database with -- for specific purposes. We need to make sure that they are (INAUDIBLE) among themselves.

And we can cross the data between all these and check fingerprints, for instance, in all these databases. That will require difficult discussions

with the European parliament, because, in Europe, we are extremely sensitive about tracking the right balance between security and freedom.

All European parliament took four years, if not five years, to agree on what the so-called passenger name record file, allowing the police to

get access to data on passengers -- five years.


Because it was considered to be highly sensitive. It is not as sensitive for me as it is, it seems so, for the European parliament. But

we managed to reach an agreement. And I am very confident that this will be adopted in the coming two or three weeks. This is a significant


AMANPOUR: Do you feel at this stage, then, that this is, in fact, the new normal and we are going to be faced with this kind of attack for the

foreseeable future, particularly with the war in Syria and Iraq, where they have training grounds, where they have access to weapons and all of that?

DE KERCHOVE: I think for a while, as I've said before, we're likely to have more plots. That doesn't mean they will succeed. And if you see

the number of people arrested in the U.K., in France, in Germany, in different parts of Europe, and the number of cells which are dismantled,

this means something, that there is a lot of people close to or plotting.

But we are likely to have that more, as I said before, because I think daish is feeling bad, feeling on the defensive and we want to do so. So

that's the reason why we need to scale up extremely quickly the European response.

AMANPOUR: Yes, it's very troubling indeed. And we really appreciate you being with us to discuss this.

Gilles de Kerchove, thanks for joining us from Brussels.

DE KERCHOVE: My pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we asked, must we now imagine a world where these kinds of attacks are part and parcel of daily life,

following a frightening pattern? Next.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as Europe mourns the victims of yet more attacks, imagine a world accepting a new normal. It is a hard thing,

even for the world's most senior officials, as I found out from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry back after the Paris attacks last year.


AMANPOUR: The question is, then, is this the new normal?

Is this what we, as citizens, are expecting from our leadership, that this is now acceptable collateral damage?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely not, no. This is not normal. It will not be normal. It will not become normal. This is an



AMANPOUR: But it is the third major attack in 15 months and it is hard to have faith as we see the same powerful memorials again, this time

lit up in different colors, the black, red and yellow for Brussels, just four months after they were red, white and blue for Paris.

Same for the heartfelt tributes blooming in public spaces and the cartoons and the front pages flooding social media. The same blanket media

coverage of the same kind of terror all following a chilling playbook set in motion over more than a year now.

But still, that playbook does offer a how-to of the human spirit as well. They still come out in unity, gathering to pay tribute and respects.

For every violent action, there is an equal and opposite reaction of solidarity and the refusal to surrender values or a way of life.

And that's it for our program this week. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.