Chinese general wants timeline for Taiwan reunification

Chinese general wants timeline for Taiwan reunification

BEIJING, March 8 Kyodo

A Chinese general hopes a timeline can be set for settling the “Taiwan problem,” China Business Times reported Wednesday.

“Being a military man, I personally feel that the Taiwan problem should have a time schedule. I hope that while I am on active duty the motherland can be reunified,” Lieut. Gen. Li Fengzhou, a deputy director of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) new armament department, told the newspaper.

Li’s comments appeared in an article headlined “Taiwan Independence Means War.”

China Business Times indicated the comments were during an interview prior to the March 5 convening of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature.

A recently published Chinese policy paper warned Taiwan that Beijing may forcibly unite the island with the mainland if Taiwan puts off reunification talks “indefinitely,” but the Chinese leadership set no deadline.

The PLA, however, has launched a series of rhetorical salvos at Taiwan recently. Article after article in the army’s newspaper, PLA Daily, has repeated the threat that Taiwan independence would bring war.

On Monday the paper launched a thinly disguised attack against Taiwanese presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Chen’s party has in the past formally backed Taiwan independence, though he has lately moderated the position.

In contrast, China’s political leaders have recently taken a softer stance. Prime Minister Zhu Rongji went against the predictions of many analysts by failing to make harsh comments about Taiwan in his Sunday “Government Work Report,” the Chinese equivalent of the U.S. State of the Union address.

Taiwan goes to the polls March 18 to elect a new president.

Chen is in a tight race against independent candidate James Soong and ruling Nationalist Party candidate Lien Chan.

During the island’s last presidential election in 1996, fierce mainland rhetoric was backed by military maneuvers and missile exercises in the Taiwan Straits. Thus far, China’s saber-rattling has been limited to what some pundits on Taiwan call “paper missiles.”

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