Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Cancelation intended as olive branch, Lee Jye says

By Joy Su and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) cancelation of upcoming Han Kuang military drills is intended as an olive branch that exemplifies Taiwan's goodwill in the making of lasting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, according to the nation's top cross-strait policymaking body yesterday.

"No matter what China's decision is, Taiwan's unchanging policy objective aims to achieve peace and stability, as well as mutually beneficial development, across the Taiwan Strait," Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday, saying that no official confirmation had been received to verify speculation that China's Dongshan Island war games had been canceled.

"However, the extension of goodwill is a two-way process ... and no sound can come from one hand clapping," Wu said.

The president late Monday night called off the live-fire military drills scheduled for Sept. 9 following reports that Chinese authorities had withdrawn soldiers from China's military exercises on Dongshan Island. Dongshan Island, located just 277km west of Taiwan's Penghu Island, has been the site of several simulated invasions of Taiwan in the past.

While reiterating Taiwan's goodwill in canceling military exercises, Wu nevertheless cautioned that the China's military expansion was "astonishing."

"Despite all this, I still have to remind the Taiwanese people that the rate of modernization of China's military forces is astonishing, and in this aspect the structure of the military has not changed -- China's military capabilities surpass what is necessary for defense," Wu said.

"China continues to intensify its `three types of warfare' -- the so-called propaganda, psychological and legal warfare on Taiwan. Thus, increasing Taiwan's defensive capabilities is an important aspect of the government's work. Only by maintaining a [military] balance can we evade the incentive to attack," Wu continued, saying that once initiated, military engagement cannot be retracted.

Wu further pointed to the important role that confidence building measures could play in the prevention of inadvertant military conflict across the Taiwan Strait.

"This would include the rejection of first strike attacks by both sides, mutual notification of planned military drills, transparency of deployment plans, the establishment of a hotline, demilitarized zones, etc. The end goal is to sign a peace treaty with China," Wu said, calling for the resumption of negotiations.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday confirmed that he did meet with Chen to discuss whether they should call off the live-fire exercises, which are part of the annual Han Kuang military exercises, on Monday night before Chen left for his trip to Panama and Belize.

According to Lee, he met with the president at 8:30pm on Monday before the president's departure and Chen asked for his opinion regarding the cancelation of the exercise.

"Acting in accordance with or information, the president decided to call [the drills] off, and I supported his proposal, so we did," Lee said. "As the president said, we would like to show our sincerety in maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait."

In addition, Lee also denied that the US was involved in Taiwan's decision to cancel its live-fire exercises.

"I assure you that the US has nothing to do with this. Nobody forced us to do anything," Lee added.

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