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Ending the China-Taiwan standoff

I read with interest "Not Declaring Independence: In China-Taiwan standoff, a key retreat," (Dec. 22). The article repeatedly referred to the threat by Beijing to use military might, if necessary, against Taiwan to force reunification.

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Beijing fully understands the government policy of Taiwan that does not advocate independence. Instead, we seek eventual unification with the mainland under certain conditions - namely, the mainland must be free and democratic. In view of this, it is unnecessary for Beijing to intimidate the people of Taiwan with continued threats of force.

Taiwan has worked arduously for the impressive accomplishments it has achieved on the path to a full-fledged democracy. We regularly hold elections of public officials at all levels, including the office of the president. Taiwan's political system is open, free, and replete with a thriving multiparty system.

In China, merely attempting to register a democratic party brings a lengthy prison sentence, as in the case of Chinese dissident Wang Youcai. It is understandable that Taiwan's 21 million people are rightly cautious in their approach to reunification with Beijing.

China could make great strides in improving cross-strait relations with Taiwan if it publicly renounces the use of force to resolve the unification issue and halts its effort to isolate Taiwan from the international community. Only in this way could it successfully seek to win over the minds and hearts of the people of Taiwan and gain trust.

William Yih


Director, Information Division

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Taipei Economic & Cultural Office

True picture of South Korean military

"S. Korea Hit by a wave of military mishaps" (Dec. 23) included a gross distortion of the role of the military in South Korean society.

It said: "In the 1950s, graduates of the Korean Military Academy (KMA) took top jobs, including the presidency. Until the mid-1970s, the military was the leading edge of technology, education, and administration, attracting the best and brightest."

What the article failed to note is that, from 1961-1987, South Korea was a military dictatorship. While it is certainly true that KMA graduates did rise to the presidency, their method of doing so was through coup d'etat; first by Park Chung Hee in 1961, and then again, following Park's 1979 assassination, by a group led by Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo in 1980.

While it is true that Roh succeeded Chun in democratic elections, it can not be denied that his rise was directly related to his participation in helping Chun seize power by force. And the military's role in the 1980 Kwangju massacre remains an emotional issue for many Koreans. The one undeniable accomplishment of the much-criticized Kim Young Sam government is its success in removing the military from politics. The article's failure to even mention the problematic history of the South Korean military's political role produces a greatly flawed picture of the issues it discusses.

Timothy L. Savage

Berkeley, Calif.

Tritium solution?

Here is a bizarre suggestion to solve the US tritium problem discussed in "Risk of breaching wall on nuclear production" (Dec. 28): Buy it from Russia. The Russians have no qualms about mixing electric power production and weapons manufacture. And they need the hard currency. We are always 10 years ahead of actual need; if things again got dicey with the Russians we would have time to develop other sources.

Richard C. Hill

Old Town, Maine

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