HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 c338
12. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action his office has taken to reduce tension between Taiwan and China. [17270]

Mr. Hanley

We are very concerned about the increased tension in the Taiwan straits and its potential effect on the stability and development of the region. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised those concerns with the Chinese Premier, Li Peng, when they met in Bangkok on 29 February. We urge both sides to resolve their differences peacefully.

Mr. Pawsey

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that extremely helpful and comprehensive reply. However, has he had an opportunity to read reports in today's press which give details about Chinese guided missile tests taking place in the Taiwan straits, with a resultant substantial increase in tension between China and Taiwan? Given the importance of China and Taiwan to that region, is my right hon. Friend able to place before those two nations the resources of his office in an effort to reach some form of mediated settlement?

Mr. Hanley

We certainly saw the reports to which my hon. Friend refers, and they are worrying. We will have to consider carefully what other steps we will take if there is a danger to shipping, for example, from such activities. The activities are regrettable. It would be far better if Taiwanese politicians lowered their rhetoric and if the Chinese Government lowered their overreaction.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the Minister agree that it would help to lower tension if China followed Taiwan in moving down the road to greater democracy and open elections, and that the free world at large is not terribly impressed by any attempt to be bully boys?

Mr. Hanley

Democracy in Taiwan is certainly an important development, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows how the British Government view the status of Taiwan. That view remains unchanged. It is sad that tension is rising during the democratic elections in Taiwan. We urge the Chinese not to overreact as a result.