Taipei (AFP) Nov 21, 2009
Taiwan's Premier Wu Den-yih has urged China to remove missiles targeting the island to pave the way for peace talks between the formal arch-rivals, a report said Saturday.
Beijing needed to build deeper trust with Taiwan by removing the rockets as well as allowing the island greater space in the international community, Wu was quoted by the United Daily News as saying.
"We can only begin talks on a peace agreement when the two sides accumulate more mutual trust and mutual benefits, and when there is a strong consensus in Taiwan and more concrete goodwill by China.
"It is not the time to rush into any peace talks now," he said.
China has nearly 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, with no signs that the build-up is about to stop anytime soon, according to the island's defence officials.
Taiwan's missile capability is not known. It has been test-firing weapons such as the Hsiungfeng 2E surface-to-surface missile, with a range of 600 kilometres, but it remains unclear how effective it is.
Although Taiwan has been governed separately since the civil war ended in 1949, China still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Relations have improved markedly since Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou became president of Taiwan last year. However, Ma has repeatedly said the missiles remain a major obstacle to improved relations.
earlier related report
Obama sought broader relations with China on his maiden visit this week and is widely seen as reluctant to act soon on Taiwan's request to buy F-16 fighter-jets, which the island says it needs to modernize its aging fleet.
Taiwan's backers from both major parties in the House of Representatives sponsored a bill that would force the Obama administration to explain to Congress its plans on defense cooperation with Taiwan.
If approved, the bill would require Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to provide "detailed briefings" to Congress on the issue within 90 days.
The measure was led by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She was joined by four Republicans and three lawmakers from Obama's Democratic Party.
Taiwan is unlikely to be an urgent priority for Congress, which enters the holiday season wrapped up in negotiations on Obama's key domestic priorities such as extending health care coverage and battling climate change.
But one congressional aide said that the bill was a sign that lawmakers were frustrated on Taiwan.
There is a growing concern that the foreign military sales process with respect to Taiwan is becoming dysfunctional due to indecisiveness, which is in effect paralyzing the process," the aide said on condition of anonymity.
A Republican congressman, Joe Barton, introduced a separate bill that would call on the United States to make a decision on arms sales "based solely" on Taiwan's defense needs.
Beijing considers Taiwan, where nationalists fled in 1949 after losing the mainland's civil war to the communists, to be a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
The United States in 1979 switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Obama reiterated on his visit that the United States believed there was only one China.
Congress, long Washington's hotbed of support for Taiwan, responded to the switch 30 years ago by approving the Taiwan Relations Act that requires the United States to provide the island with weapons of a defensive nature.
China angrily denounces such arms sales. It cut off military exchanges with the United States for months after the George W. Bush administration in October 2008 unveiled a 6.5-billion-dollar arms package for Taiwan, which included Patriot missile defenses and Apache attack helicopters but not F-16s.
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, despite a conciliatory stance toward Beijing, has appealed to the United States for weapons, saying the island must stay on guard in light of the mainland's sharp rise in military spending.
An annual report released Sunday by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan board appointed by Congress, recommended that the United States help Taiwan modernize its military due to Beijing's growing strategic advantage.
Obama has tried to broaden ties and avoid friction with China, which emerged over the past decade into the biggest holder of the ballooning US debt.
Triggering criticism at home, Obama in October refrained from meeting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama although the White House said he would meet him later.
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