China offers Taiwan military dialogue, island wary

China offered on Wednesday to open talks on military issues with rival Taiwan.

Beijing: China offered on Wednesday to open talks on military issues with rival Taiwan, a move that could cool a potential flashpoint in the Asia-Pacific region and help warming ties, but it drew a cool reaction from the island.

"We advocate conducting contacts and exchanges on military issues, including the cross-Strait military deployment issue, in a proper way at a proper time," Yang Yi, spokesman for China`s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"(We will) discuss setting up a cross-Strait security mutual trust system to stabilize the cross-Strait situation and ease military security worries," he added.

China has as many as 1,900 short- and mid-range missiles aimed at Taiwan, defense officials on the island say, and Taiwan has urged China to remove them. Beijing has never renounced the threat of force to bring Taiwan into its fold.

Taiwan Premier Wu Den-yih, however, told parliament that the time was not yet right to discuss disarmament because the two sides needed more trust.

"I`m afraid the time is not ripe," Wu said, according to the semi-official Central News Agency reported.

With elections on the island coming up this year and in 2012, Taiwan officials can be reluctant to rush into talks with China, and risk raising suspicion among voters nervous about the mainland.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island following the Communist victory in a civil war.
Trade would top agenda

Military dialogue would ease the 60-year-old threat of war between two sides just 160 km (100 miles) apart and could raise a recent thaw in relations to a new level following a series of landmark economic deals signed since 2008.
Taiwan`s stock and currency markets would welcome any reduction of military tension as a sign of long-term stability for growth in trade ties between the island`s $416 billion export-led economy and powerhouse China.

Bureau Report