Agence France Press

Taiwanese-Americans urge Bush to seek Chinese removal of missiles aimed at Taiwan

Friday November 18th, 2005

Washington, (AFP) - US President George W. Bush should ask Chinese President Hu Jintao during talks this weekend to remove the more than 700 missiles aimed at Taiwan, a group of Taiwanese-American groups said.

In a letter sent to Bush, the 15 groups said the missiles targeting the island "produce a coercive rather than conducive environment for the exercise of democracy.

"These missiles also gravely threaten the status quo that you have been so eager to preserve," according to a copy of the letter made public Friday.

Washington has maintained a delicate policy on China and Taiwan, recognizing Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China and at the same time highlighting a US legal obligation to offer Taiwan a means of self-defense if its security is threatened.

"We recommend that, in your negotiations with the Chinese leaders, you insist that these offensive weapons be dismantled," the Taiwanese-American groups said.

Bush is to fly from Busan, South Korea, where he is currently attending an Asia-Pacific summit, to Beijing on Saturday. He is scheduled to hold talks with Hu on wide-ranging issues, including human rights, security and trade.

During a visit to Japan on Wednesday, Bush praised Taiwan's democracy and urged Beijing to open dialogue with Taipei.

China responded with a warning that "Taiwan is a part of China, an inseparable part of China, and China does not brook any interference in its internal affairs."

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory, awaiting reunification by force if necessary.

Washington remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan even though it moved diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

In a separate letter to Bush, two lawmakers from his Republican party asked the leader to make an "official" stopover in Taiwan after his Bejing visit.

Tom Tancredo and Rob Simmons, members of the House of Representatives for Colorado and Connecticut respectively, said a Bush visit to Taipei could help break a Taiwanese legislative gridlock that has centered on a proposed US-Taiwan arms sale.

In 2001, the United States proposed selling Taiwan an arms package to further the island's defense capabilities, but Taiwan's opposition parties have blocked consideration of the package despite China's military buildup.

"A personal visit to Taiwan to meet with President Chen (Shui-bian) and call for an up or down vote in the Legislative Yuan on the arms sale would help to underscore the importance of the package to Taiwan's future, and our commitment to a free, democratic, and strong Taiwan," the legislators said.