Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer Tuesday played down China’s military buildup across from Taiwan while urging countries to do all they can to discourage Taipei from declaring independence.
“My sense is that the military buildup on the part of China in relation to Taiwan is about providing a disincentive for Taiwan to declare independence, not so much a prelude to some military expedition,” Downer said in Beijing.
China has said it wants to peacefully reunify with Taiwan, which separated from mainland China in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but has threatened to respond to a formal declaration of independence by going to war.
Downer said that other than holding firm to its threshold of not tolerating Taiwan independence, Beijing seemed comfortable with moving towards a reconciliation with Taiwan in a peaceful way.
“I got positive messages back from the Chinese leadership. They didn’t say that they were embarking on some military action against Taiwan,” Downer told a press conference.
China has some 600 ballistic missiles aimed at the island and both sides have recently conducted large-scale war games in the Taiwan Strait.
Cross-strait tension has been escalating since pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian took office in 2000 and since his re-election in March this year.
In a bid to prevent “a substantial upheaval in the region” he said it was imperative that the United and the European Union do all they can to dissuade Chen from going down the independence path.
“It’s incumbent upon countries like Australia and active and significant countries in the region and beyond, the European Union and the United States, to transmit to the Taiwanese leadership the message that a proclamation of independence would be provocative,” Downer said.
During meetings with Chinese leaders here, including Premier Wen Jiabao, Downer said he had told them that Australia had been actively urging Taiwan not to declare independence.
Downer also reiterated Australia’s support for the “One China” policy under which Taiwan is defined as a part of China.
“It’s my view that the rapidly increased economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland and also the evolution of China itself which has been so dramatic over the last 30 years, a peaceful resolution of this problem will be more possible,” Downer said.