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September 23, 2017

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China missile-removal offer goes unanswered

Taipei's China policymakers yesterday declined to comment on Beijing's latest overture hinting at the possibility of removing missiles targeting Taiwan.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) would not comment until it fully understands China's offer, said MAC Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun.

A spokesman for China's defense ministry, Geng Yansheng, said earlier that Beijing would discuss the removal of guided missiles targeting the island under the "One China" principle at a proper time.

Geng told a press conference in Beijing that in order to resolve the missile issue, the two sides should first build a military mutual trust mechanism.

Asked what is the biggest obstacle to building a cross-strait military mutual trust mechanism, Geng said there would not be too many problems, as long as both sides adhere to the "one China" principle.

As for possible U.S.-China military collaboration, Geng said the biggest obstacle is Washington's policy of selling weapons to Taiwan.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China, and does not rule out the use of force against it should it declare formal independence.

Although cross-strait tensions have eased since President Ma Ying-jeou took office, the island continues to be under military threats from China, including about 1,000 missiles currently aimed at the island.

But the Ma administration has given top priority to economic ties across the strait, putting aside political, ideological and military confrontations.

Taipei and Beijing has just signed an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

Taipei has liberalized China-bound investments by Taiwan-based businesses. Tourists from China are coming in the hundreds daily, and direct flights across the strait are increasing.

The MAC vice chief said that Taiwan will still focus on economic exchanges with China in the meantime.

He said he believes after business and trade issues are tackled, a good climate will arise for the two sides to talk about other matters, including building a cross-strait military mutual trust mechanism.

Taiwan's defense ministry also declined to comment on Geng's remarks, saying it had yet to receive "relevant" information.

The United Evening News cited unnamed sources involved in cross-strait affairs as questioning whether there are ulterior motives behind China's latest overture.

China could just remove the missiles without holding any talks with Taipei, the sources said. Beijing could be looking for something in return, the sources added.

The Ma administration may be reluctant to touch on the political side of cross-strait relations, Beijing seems much eager to do so.

The United Evening News said that since last year, "military" ties between the two sides have been growing in the form of informal exchanges between retired generals and other activities.

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