Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday called on China to withdraw missiles targeting the island to ensure peace between the two former bitter rivals.
China now has nearly 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, with no signs that the build-up is about to stop anytime soon, according to defence officials here.
"We hope that the Chinese communists will consider removing the missiles facing Taiwan to create a peaceful environment for both sides," Ma said as he met a group of former soldiers.
While this is an understandable request, I hope the positions of China's missiles don't become the standard to judge China's intentions and capabilities. To me, "removal" isn't a clear enough request since removal could easily be mere movement and not scrapping of missiles.
China would only use a fraction of their deployed missiles in the opening hours of an invasion. Some percent will be used in the days to follow. So if China moves only the missiles not needed in those first 24 hours out of range of Taiwan, the Chinese threat is not actually reduced one bit.
The Chinese would spend that first 24 hours moving missiles back into range of Taiwan to continue the missile barrage to pin the Taiwanes military down while the Chinese send in the airborne and amphibious invaders.
Yet by constantly asking China to move their missiles rather than scrap them, after repeated Chinese refusals to remove them, will a sudden agreement to move some trap the Taiwanese into publicly accepting that as a reduction of the threat?
The Taiwanese should be demanding the destruction of Chinese missiles and not their movement out of range. The latter is too easy to reverse on short notice.
UPDATE: Is the issue of destroy or withdraw just one of translation? This article says Ma wants the missiles "scrapped," a clear reference to destruction:
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, in his first interview after taking on the chairmanship of the ruling Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), again urged China to scrap missiles that stand along its coast, aimed at the island.
Of course, even if the current Taiwanese demand is for China to destroy the missiles, the Taiwanese should be aware that Chinese refusal to destroy them doesn't mean that the fallback demand should be for China to move them from striking distance of Taiwan. There is a big difference between the two demands.