Tuesday, August 31, 2010

U.S. Concerned About Taiwan Ex-Generals' China Visits

Closer contacts between retired Taiwanese generals and the Chinese authorities have sparked concerns in Washington, the island's major arms supplier, media and an official said Aug. 30.

The former generals started visiting China years ago, but with Taiwan's mainland ties improving rapidly since 2008, the trips have become so frequent that they have drawn U.S. attention, the Taipei-based China Times said.

"The United States has voiced its concerns to (Taiwan's de facto ambassador) Jason Yuan and voiced the hope that Taiwan can come up with an explanation," the paper said, without naming the source.

It said Washington was especially concerned if such contacts may endanger long-standing military cooperation projects with Taiwan.

Washington is also wondering if the visits mark the beginning of discussion about military exchanges and the establishment of confidence-building measures between the two former cross-Strait rivals, it said.

"It would be understandable if the United States voices such concerns, given the fast improving ties between Taipei and Beijing," said Chen Wen-yi, deputy chief of the foreign ministry's North American Affairs Department.

But he said the concerns were unnecessary as the visits were not authorized by the government.

Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Despite the underlying tension, relations have improved markedly since 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became president, pledging to boost trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.

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