Taiwan will continue to seek advanced weaponry from the US despite the cross-strait detente because it needs an elite force as a bargaining chip in talks with the mainland, the island's military spokesman says. 'With the current [cross-strait] developments, we hope to bring down the risk of a war as much as possible, but this does not mean we should do away with our combat power,' Major General Yu Sy-tue, spokesman of the Defence Ministry, said yesterday in a news briefing for foreign media. Only with a strong defence would the island be able to continue to hold talks with the mainland. 'Otherwise, the mainland would take us over easily, like [with] Hong Kong and Macau,' he said, noting that the mainland has never renounced the use of force against Taiwan and continued to target the island with more than 1,000 missiles. General Yu emphasised that engaging with the mainland while maintaining an elite defensive force were not contradictory policies. Taiwan might consider reductions in military strength only when both sides achieved a certain level of trust through pragmatic economic and political co-operation, he said. Arguments have continued in Taiwan over whether the island should spend less on defence, given that relations across the strait have improved since mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year. General Yu said that while Taiwan could never afford an arms race with the mainland, it would maintain a moderate budget to purchase modern weapons from the US or any other suitable countries. He said weapons that Taiwan wanted to buy from the US included F-16 C/D fighter jets, conventional submarines and Apache attack helicopters. General Yu said that during a stop in the US on his way to visit Taiwan's allies in Central America in June, Mr Ma had directly told US officials that Taipei hoped to acquire the F-16s from the US. Taiwan's F-5s had flown for two to three decades, and several such old warplanes had crashed in the past year. The island's strategic value in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region was a key to convincing Washington that the sales were necessary to maintain an effective defensive force in the region. General Yu also said he saw a slight improvement in cross-strait military exchanges. He acknowledged that Taiwanese and mainland military officers had met in Hawaii once in April through a seminar held by the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, a US military-affiliated think-tank in Honolulu. 'It was an academic seminar, and there was not much interaction among the participants as far as I know,' he said.