TAIPEI - 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.
The island's total missile capability is not known. It has been test-firing weapons such as the Hsiungfeng 2E surface-to-surface missile, with a range of 600 kilometres, but it remains unclear how effective it is.
"We hope the Taiwan Strait will be turned from a battlefield into a region of peace," he told the veterans of the civil war with the communists in the late 1940s.
Although Taiwan has been governed separately since the civil war ended in 1949, China still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if need be.
Relations have improved markedly since Beijing-friendly Ma took office last year. However, the missiles remain a major obstacle to improved relations, Ma has said repeatedly.