US recalls warships as Perry says Taiwan Straits crisis is over


THE crisis involving China and Taiwan appears to be over, the US Defence Secretary, Mr William Perry, said yesterday.

"I think this particular crisis is behind us now," Mr Perry said as Pentagon officials confirmed the aircraft carrier Independence was leaving waters off Taiwan and said the carrier Nimitz was expected to leave the area next week as tensions between China and Taiwan ease.

The US deployed the two carriers and other ships near Taiwan this month after China started missile tests and war games designed to warn the Taiwanese against voting for advocates of independence in the island's presidential elections last Saturday.

On Monday, Beijing announced the end to eight days of military exercises at the northern end of the Taiwan Strait.

"We believe the [Chinese] exercises are over. We see the troops going back to their barracks now, Mr Perry told a meeting of the American Business Conference in Washington.

"One would hope now that we would get back on the track that we were on the last couple of years, with China and Taiwan starting to deal with each other in a friendly way letting ordinary business and travel start to take hold again," he added. "I am hopeful, and even a little optimistic that that's what will happen."

The US navy announced in Japan that the Independence would return to its home port of Yokosuka tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in Taipei, the Prime Minister of Taiwan, Mr Lien Chan, has offered to hold peace talks with China and called on Beijing to reject the "flawed strategy" of using force as a way to settle differences.

But the prime minister said Taiwan would defend itself and ensure that it had the muscle to deal with any future "military adventurism".

Mr Lien also denied a local newspaper report that China and Taiwan had held secret negotiations and agreed not to let then mounting tensions lead to war. The China Times Express said the meeting took place in the US.