Taiwan Defense Company Wants China Deal

Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation of Taiwan is considering building commercial aircraft with China, but the fighter jet maker says there is no deal yet.

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- The producer of a strategically important Taiwanese jet fighter said Monday it was discussing a deal on commercial aircraft manufacture with a Chinese company, despite concern from the island's military.

Li Shih-chang of the government-held Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation told The Associated Press his company met with China's state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation during the Shanghai air show in May.

"We are still talking about a possible concept for commercial aircraft, but there has not been a deal yet," Li said. "We will not give up on any possible business opportunity."

AIDC made Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Fighter jets on a now discontinued production line, and remains responsible for IDF maintenance.

Li's statement comes amid steadily improving ties between Taiwan and the mainland. Since coming into office 13 months ago, President Ma Ying-jeou has jettisoned his predecessor's pro-independence policies, in favor of much greater political and economic engagement with China.

Ministry of Defense spokesman Yu Sy-tue questioned the wisdom of any deal between AIDC and the Chinese company.

"Of course we have some concerns, " he said. "But we do not have the power to interfere with their commercial aircraft deals."

Li said his company would be able to keep confidential military information out of Chinese hands.

"We have worked with nine countries and 16 companies and we have the experience to keep secrets from leaking," he said.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing continues to claim the island of its territory, and threatens to attack if Taiwan makes the break permanent.

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