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Taiwan president picks premier as VP running mate

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said Sunday that his premier would be his vice presidential running mate in next year's elections in an apparent attempt to counter criticism that he has failed on domestic issues while trying to bolster ties with China.

China-friendly Ma's choice of Wu Den-yih appears to be a move to address critics' charges that he is neglecting issues at home while courting Beijing and to win over voters in the pro-independence heartland in southern Taiwan, where Wu has extensive connections.

Wu, 63, is widely deemed a quick-witted, experienced administrator of domestic affairs. Before becoming premier, he was a magistrate in his native central Taiwanese county of Nantou, then mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung, and later a lawmaker.

Wu became premier in 2009 after his predecessor stepped down for an inadequate response to a typhoon that claimed some 700 lives and consequently pummeled Ma's approval ratings. The Cabinet under Wu is known to respond swiftly to public sentiment concerning various issues, and the premier is often quick to retort opposition lawmakers' criticism of government policies.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Ma praised Wu for being effective in communicating with the public and dealing with their needs.

"Premier Wu often faces people and local officials directly to resolve issues," Ma said. "As he served as a mayor and magistrate for a long time, he really understands what the public needs at a grass-roots level."

In late May, incumbent Vice President Vincent Siew announced that he would not seek a second term to give others a chance to run.

Ma will face main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen in January's elections.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing still claims Taiwan as its own. Since Ma took office in May 2008, he has bolstered ties with China by signing various trade deals, including a wide-ranging tariff-reduction pact, and has significantly reduced tensions between the sides.

However, critics say Ma's programs benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, and opposition parties claim his mainland initiatives will eventually hurt Taiwan's economy and sovereignty.