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Taiwan 'not ruling out' culture pact with China: official
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Jan 23, 2013

Taiwan drill simulates Chinese attack on airport
Hualien, Taiwan (AFP) Jan 23, 2013 - Taiwan held a military exercise Wednesday simulating an attempt by rival China to seize an airport in the east, one of the most crucial military establishments in the area, officials said.

Hundreds of soldiers and a fleet of main battle tanks were mobilised in the drill at Hualien airbase, while F-16 fighters were scrambled, air force officials said.

Ties between China and Taiwan have improved significantly since Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president in 2008, vowing to adopt a non-confrontational policy towards the mainland.

Ma was reelected in January last year for a second and last four-year term.

China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since the two sides separated in 1949 after a long civil war.

The lingering threats have prompted Taiwan to keep modernising its forces targeting China.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou would consider cultural agreements with China, an official said Wednesday, triggering an angry response from the island's anti-Beijing opposition.

Lin Join-sane, chairman of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation became the first Taiwanese official to raise the possibility of a culture deal and said the view reflected that of Ma's.

"We won't rule out signing culture agreements with the mainland as long as they are in the interest of our country, supported by the people and supervised by parliament," Lin told reporters in Taipei.

He did not specify the content of any possible cultural agreements.

But the island's opposition said they would merely facilitate Beijing's ambition of bringing about unification with the island.

"What's behind this is a mindset bent on unification. First comes the economy, then culture, and in the end politics," Lin Chun-hsien, spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told AFP.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union, a smaller party even more critical of China, also rejected Lin's remarks.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but ties between them have improved markedly since 2008 when Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to office on platform of beefing up trade and tourism links.

Since then, they have forged 18 agreements to boost trade and civil exchanges, including a sweeping trade pact known as Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010.

The landmark pact has been widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation between the former rivals but critics say it will undermine the island's de facto independence.


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