Taiwan for closer ties with China

TAIPEI: Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday the island will not ignore the military threat from China despite warming ties with the former arch-rival.

But in his annual National Day address he reiterated his desire for closer ties with the mainland and called for patience in the developing relationship.

"We never ignore the other side's military threat despite significant improvements in cross-Strait ties. We seek peace in the Taiwan Strait but we will never sacrifice Taiwan's defence security," he said.

"Our defence strategy is 'solid defence; effective deterrence'. We will develop a professional military based on conscription ... to defend Taiwan."

Ma also called for setting aside disputes that have split Taiwan and China for six decades and to forge closer economic ties by signing a major trade pact and an agreement on financial cooperation.

"There are many works beneficial to people in both sides that we can work on.

"However, it is impossible to overcome the gap and doubt between the two sides in one single step so both need to have faith and face the reality to gradually expand mutual trust."

Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, despite their split in 1949 after a civil war.

Tensions with China have decreased since Beijing-friendly Ma came to power last year vowing to promote reconciliation and trade links.

However, the usual festivities to mark National Day were cancelled this year in honour in honour of the victims of Typhoon Morakot, which hit the island in August killing 619 people and causing the worst floods in over half a century.

Instead, Ma and top government officials held a simple ceremony in the presidential office where he delivered the televised speech.

"We are not in the mood for celebration when more than 700 people were killed or missing in the flood. We hope they can rest in peace and we hope for a safer homeland," he said.