- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

China’s military buildup across the Taiwan Strait remains a major concern for the tiny island even as overall relations between the Cold War foes improve, Taiwan’s top official for its relations with Beijing said Wednesday.

In the past year, the two governments have engaged in high-level talks and reached several agreements on trade and travel. But China continues to deploy 1,300 missiles pointed at Taiwan, a number that has been increasing since the 1990s, Shin-Yuan Lai, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“Taiwan is a highly democratic country and if the mainland wants to win the hearts of the Taiwanese people, they have to remove the military threat,” she said.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration came to power in early 2008, determined to ease tensions with the mainland.

Taiwan has since chosen to move “pragmatically” in its negotiations with Beijing, focusing on trade and financial agreements and moving to the back burner disputes on the military force and declarations of unity or independence, Ms. Lai said.

The two states disagree on Taiwan’s political status: China contends that Taiwan is part of “one China,” and Taiwan maintains its autonomy as a democratic state.

Since adopting what Ms. Lai called a “status quo” framework one year ago, Taiwan and Beijing have conducted three sets of high-level talks and signed nine agreements.

Reaching an all-time public opinion high, 92 percent of Taiwanese agree with the administration’s policy toward China, she said.

Cross-strait air and sea travel and postal services have been established, as well as agreements on food safety and programs to jointly combat crime, she said.

The economic downturn has also prompted Taiwan and China to increase cooperation on trade and regulations for financial institutions, she said.

Seventy percent of Taiwan’s economy is based on exports and 40 percent of exports are sent to China.

To better access markets, the two countries have reached agreements on banking, securities and insurance markets, Ms. Lai said.

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