On August 2, Taiwan’s presidential spokesman Lo Chi-chiang said that the Taiwanese people will not accept China’s offer to withdraw over 1,000 missiles targeting Taiwan on the condition that the island accepts the “one China” principle. Taipei’s response came as China publicly suggested the withdrawal of missiles in future talks about confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs).
Speaking on the issue a few days before, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that the two sides could “discuss whatever issues,” including the removal of Chinese missiles, when they explore the establishment of a CSBMs on military issues. It was the first time the Chinese military had publicly suggested the withdrawal of missiles.
In response, Taipei sought to improve cross-strait relations if China willingly initiated the withdrawal on the basis of the “1992 consensus” reached by the two sides. The “1992 consensus” refers to the understanding reached by official representatives at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong discussing the definition of “one China.” The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it to mean the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote mutual communications.
According to the Central News Agency, Lo said that peaceful and positive cross-strait engagement not only serves to meet the expectations of the people on both sides but also the wishes of the international community. However, amid the warming atmosphere of the past two years, there is a “discordant picture” in which their missiles are still aimed at Taiwan.
The United Daily News reported Taiwan’s Defense Ministry as saying that the majority of the missiles are of a mobile type, and therefore it has no military significance when their removal from one place means they can be redeployed from other locations.
The Liberty Times reported that Lin You-chang, the spokesman of Taiwan’s major opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, said that the issues of Taiwan’s security and sovereignty cannot be compromised with any precondition. The DPP strongly insisted that Taiwan and China should negotiate on an equal footing. The DPP cannot accept the so-called “one China” principle, that they believe would further diminish Taiwan’s national status and identity.
The Taipei-based China Times commented that the primary goal of the proposal put forward by China regarding a possible withdrawal of its missiles is not aimed at Taipei, but at Washington, in order to halt US arms sales to Taiwan. The newspaper said that China’s apparent willingness to talk is intended to make the international community, particularly the United States, think that the two sides have already entered into political negotiations on the disarmament issue, and that the sale of American weapons to Taiwan risks undermining the negotiations.
The paper noted that the peaceful lull was temporary given that the United States and China were hostile again when Beijing criticized the US-South Korea joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea, and Beijing responded by carrying out its own military exercises. Also, at the ASEAN Regional Forum held in Vietnam, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maintained that the South China Sea is free for use by all ships. This counters China’s claim of sovereignty over the area. In view of the delicate relations between the US and China, the paper suggested that in future discussions about the “withdrawal of missiles” the government should consider the issue from a regional point of view, and not just limit its thinking to cross-strait relations.