Senior military officials in Beijing confirmed on Monday that servicemen from the mainland and Taiwan will meet for the first time during a security forum held in Hawaii this August, 60 years after the civil war.
This is the first time the mainland has confirmed to media that it has kicked off primary military exchanges with Taiwan, in a move that experts say has transformed the landscape of cross-Straits military relations as the political relations improve.
The Taiwan-based United Daily reported Monday that the mainland and Taiwan will both send servicemen in Hawaii to attend the Transnational Security Cooperation (SEC), a military exchange forum organized by the US Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) under the US Pacific Command.
A military official on Monday confirmed with China Daily the mainland's plan to send officers to Hawaii .
Another military source in Beijing also suggested that some cross-Straits military exchanges may take place before August, but declined to reveal more details as yet.
The APCSS, held as a think tank of US Pacific Command, invites military officials from Asia-Pacific countries and regions to regularly attend seminars each year, studying regional security issues, enhance mutual trust and build channels for communication.
Experts said the mainland first accepted the invitation from the SEC in 2000, but refused to attend the forum when Taiwan was also invited to attend SEC in 2002, during which cross-Straits tensions intensified after former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian put forward his version of "two Chinas", seeking Taiwan independence and violating the one-China policy.
Taiwan proposed to build "military mutual trust" over a decade ago and was first replied by the mainland government in 2004 as a move to enhance cross-Straits relationship. But due to the unstable situations over the Straits, no real progress was made until now, experts said.
"Though the August event will not be a bilateral talk, it will still be the first military exchange between the mainland and Taiwan before the public," said Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military scholar, upon hearing the news.
Wu Nengyuan, director of the Fujian-based Institute of Taiwan Studies, said now is a "time is good" for building military mutual trust between the two sides.
Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou took office and his decision to trim its forces by about a fifth by 2014 and shift toward a more defensive posture in its Quadrennial Defense Review mid this month.
Jinmen and Xiamen, the opposite cities across the Taiwan Straits, yesterday agreed to remove one km-long barricades along the coast.