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TAIWAN-U.S. MILITARY EXCHANGES REMAIN STEADY: DEFENSE MINISTER

2004-01-15 18:43:23

    Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) Minister of National Defense Tang Yiau-min said Thursday that military exchanges between Taiwan and the United States have continued to proceed steadily in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the "six assurances."

    Tang made the remarks during a New Year luncheon with journalists.

    In response to inquiries as to whether President Chen Shui-bian's plan to hold a referendum to coincide the March 20 presidential election has affected Taiwan-U.S. military exchanges, Tang said the referendum issue has not had any impact on bilateral military exchanges.

    Fundamentally, Tang said, Taiwan-U.S military exchanges are based on the TRA -- the U.S. law that regulates Taiwan-U.S. relations in the absence of formal diplomatic ties -- as well as the "six assurances" the U.S. government made to Taiwan in 1982.

    At the moment, Tang said, all Taiwan-U.S. military exchange programs are proceeding smoothly.

    According to the TRA and the "six assurances," the United States is committed to providing defensive weapons to Taiwan and never forcing Taiwan to negotiate with mainladn China for unification.

    Given Taiwan's diplomatic situation, Tang went on, military exchanges with the United States are a sensitive topic and premature media disclosure of Taiwan-U.S. military exchange programs could nip them in the bud, Tang said, adding that he hopes the media can gauge the possible fallout on overall national interests and regional stability before prematurely publishing reports on Taiwan-U.S. military exchange programs.

    Commenting on recent media reports that mainland China has conducted several rounds of military exercises targeting Taiwan due to Chen's referendum plan, Tang said the Ministry of National Defense has consistently monitored People's Liberation Army (PLA) activities closely.

    At present, Tang said, all of the PLA drills have been routine training programs. "Nevertheless, we won't overlook any PLA activity and we'll also step up our combat training in order to cope with any possible emergencies," he added.

    Since Chen announced his plan to hold the nation's first-ever referendum on the day of the upcoming presidential election to offer a venue for the public to express their feelings about Beijing's deployment of hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan, mainland China has distorted the plan as a move to promote independence and the United States has also expressed concern about the possibility of the referendum provoking a conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

    Tang said the military fully supports the Referendum Law that took effect Jan. 2. "The law was passed by the legislature and promulgated by the president. It offers ordinary citizens the right to express their opinions. All military servicemen are entitled to enjoy this right and the military will definitely support the new law," he added.

(By Sofia Wu)

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