China on Wednesday denied that its military officers would meet their Taiwanese counterparts in Hawaii this summer, but suggested the two sides could begin low-key defense contacts through retired personnel or academics.
Chinese state media reported last month that officers would meet at August’s Transnational Security Cooperation forum organized by the US Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, an institute under the US Department of Defense in Hawaii.
“As far as I know, the situation to which you refer is incorrect,” Li Weiyi (李維一), a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office told a news conference after being asked if Chinese and Taiwanese officers would meet. If it happened, it would be the first such meeting since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and a further sign of improving ties between the political rivals.
China did not approve of using third parties to talk about military matters with Taiwan, Li said.
“Military exchanges across the strait are an issue for both sides and academics from both could first have scholarly exchanges on a security mutual trust mechanism,” he said. “It could also start with exchanges between retired officers, to start off military contacts between the two sides. I think this is a constructive way of thinking, as well as appropriate and positive.”
A Ministry of National Defense official said military exchanges through academics or retired personnel was an idea “worth evaluating,” but did not elaborate.
China still has more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan and is continuing to expand its arsenal.