Taiwan`s Prez calls on China to remove missiles

Ma Ying-jeou used Taiwan`s national day celebrations to call on China to act on its words.

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2010, 15:37 PM IST

Taipei: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou used the country`s national day celebrations to call on China to act on its words and withdraw the 1,000-plus ballistic missiles targeting the island as soon as possible in Taipei.

"Cross-strait relations have made great improvements these last years and there has been a conspicuous reduction in tensions in the Taiwan Strait," Ma said yesterday.

"We think that comments by the mainland Chinese authorities on withdrawing missiles have positive meaning for cross-strait relations and they should implement them at the earliest possible moment," he said.

Ma was referring to tentative noises from China`s Defence Ministry earlier this year and an ambiguous comment on removing weapons by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in late September while visiting New York.

Ma was speaking to several thousand performers and spectators in the Presidential Office plaza and millions on live television, as well as around 200 foreign dignitaries.

The latter included more than 30 from Japan, the semi-official Central News Agency reported.

Ma praised the easing of tensions between Taiwan and China following his election in 2008 but said military preparedness remains key.

"Taiwan cannot place its security hopes merely in improvements in cross-strait relations," he said.

"For this reason, developing an autonomous defence capacity and continuing the purchase of defensive weapons that we cannot produce ourselves are necessary policies that have not changed," he said.

Most of Ma`s speech focused on economic achievements and growing links with China and other Asian nations, but he also stressed reform on pressing domestic issues that have hurt the government in the polls, particularly legal reform and widening wealth disparities.

Two days after congratulating Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Ma also announced on Sunday the formation of a human rights committee under the Presidential Office.

The new committee, to be headed by Vice President Vincent Siew, was criticised by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party as a "rush job”.

DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who like other opposition figures declined to attend the Double Ten ceremony, said a President who covets human rights would have formed the committee after taking office rather than waiting almost three years, CNA reported.

She accused Ma of forming the committee to ease the "pressure" of public opinion for not immediately calling for Liu`s release from custody.

Several hours after Liu won the award on Friday, the Presidential Office released a statement congratulating Liu and saying the award "carries significant historical meaning for the development of human rights in mainland China, as well as for Chinese society all over the world," but Ma did not call explicitly for Liu`s release until Saturday.

PTI