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Taiwan-China talks on South China Sea not in the cards: minister

ROC Central News Agency

2011/07/13 14:19:59

By Leaf Chiang and Sofia Wu

New York, July 12 (CNA) Taiwan has no plans to hold political negotiations with China at the moment, nor will it negotiate South China Sea issues with Beijing, a visiting Taiwanese official reaffirmed Tuesday.

Although relations across the Taiwan Strait have improved substantially in recent years, Taiwan's government still follows an "economy first" policy in managing cross-strait engagements, Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang said during a question-and-answer session after speaking at the Asia Society.

For the moment, Yang said, Taiwan has no intention of negotiating any political issues with China, including South China Sea disputes.

Yang was responding to a question by Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor, who said he was curious about Taiwan's role in issues related to the disputed South China Sea.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines -- claim all or part of the South China Sea, which includes the the Spratly, Paracel and Pratas islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.

Tensions escalated in the region earlier this year, with China, Vietnam and the Philippines sparring over their conflicting claims.

As Taiwan controls the Pratas (Dongsha) Islands, the largest island group in the South China Sea, and Taiping Island, the largest island in the Spratlys archipelago, Yang said Taiwan's claim to the South China Sea is beyond dispute.

Yang's speech on Taiwan's win-win strategy for cross-strait relations drew an audience of nearly 120 influential figures in various fields in the greater New York region.

Yang said after the forum that the question-and-answer session helped him better understand mainstream concerns over Taiwan in the United States, such as Taiwan's security, developments in cross-strait relations and the changing situation in East Asia.

The minister further said the main purpose of his current U.S. speaking tour was to publicize the government's basic policies, particularly on security issues.

"We hope the U.S. government will consider arms sales to Taiwan in terms of Taiwan's defense needs," Yang said.

He added that Taiwan also hopes the United States will understand that cross-strait economic engagements will not only benefit Taiwan's development but are also in the U.S.' interests and will contribute to regional development.

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