TAIPEI (Reuters) - China may be planning to slowly reduce the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan in a significant show of goodwill towards the self-ruled island, a Taiwanese military official said on Sunday.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
But Beijing may be planning to remove some of its approximately 1,300 short-range and mid-range missiles aimed at Taiwan, which is about 160 km away, said island defence ministry spokeswoman Chih Yu-lan.
"We have some grasp of this situation," Chih said.
Relations between the two sides have already improved since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May. His government has signed trade and transit deals with Beijing while avoiding displays of sovereignty for the island.
China's removal of missiles would be particularly popular with Taiwan's public compared with other recent goodwill measures, such as a gift of two giant pandas and financial incentives for Taiwan investors, political experts on the island say.
But Taiwan's military is not backing down, Chih said.
"We would look favourably at this development (in China), but we need to work on our own safety and not rely on someone else's goodwill," Chih said. "We won't relax our own preparations."