Taiwan leader says China may dismantle missiles
By ANNIE HUANG, APTAIPEI, Taiwan — China could feel compelled to dismantle the more than 1,000 missiles it has pointed at Taiwan as relations between the rivals improve, the island's president said today.
May 19, 2010, 2:29 pm TWN
Ma Ying-jeou said the easing of tensions across the 100-mile-(160 kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait makes it increasingly difficult for Beijing to justify its missile posture, particularly with thousands of mainland Chinese tourists arriving in Taiwan every day.
Ma spoke at the midpoint of his four-year term, which has been characterized by a rapid expansion of trade and business ties with China, and a growing belief that an eventual peace treaty could be on the agenda if Ma's Nationalist Party retains the presidency in 2012.
"As we try to reduce tensions and improve relations, the closer ties between the two sides will foster peace and prosperity," Ma said in Taipei. "This does not accord with the mainland having more than 1,000 missiles pointing at us. The mainlanders could feel this way, and our allies, including the U.S. and Japan, could feel this way too."
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing still claims the island as a part of its own territory, to be regained by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary.
China's deployment of missiles at Taiwan has long been a sore point on the island, and Ma has said repeatedly that without their removal real political progress between the sides will not be possible.
Some analysts believe that China might be willing to move at least some of the missiles as a way of supporting Ma in the immediate run-up to his prospective re-election campaign in 2012, particularly if the pro-independence opposition appears to be threatening his grip on power.
During Ma's two years in office, Taiwan and the mainland have launched regular direct air service, and relaxed controls on bilateral trade and investment. A landmark deal on trade is expected to be signed next month.
Looking ahead, Ma said that a formal peace agreement with Beijing remains a possibility, though he declined to speculate on a timetable for it.
"We have only opened up relations for two years, and have yet to finish much of the tree-planting work," he said.