TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will drop for the first time in 17 years its annual bid to join the United Nations as island President Ma Ying-jeou seeks peace with long-time rival and U.N. heavyweight China, the foreign ministry said on Friday.
Taiwan, recognized by only 23 countries, failed in its previous 16 consecutive U.N. membership bids due to objections from China, which has claimed the self-ruled island as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
China, a U.N. Security Council member, opposes Taiwan's participation in any international body that requires statehood as a condition for membership.
"We're not making a proposal this year," said Taiwan foreign ministry spokesman James Chang. "That decision is based on our taking a look at the overall situation."
Taiwan would normally make a public display in September by asking its allies to introduce a formal proposal to the U.N. General Assembly, which would quickly quash it.
Efforts to join the United Nations under ex-president Chen Shui-bian, who had a stormy relationship with Beijing, prompted strong opposition from China and also displeased the United States, which feared heightened cross-Strait tension.
The island's ties, particularly trade and transit links, with Beijing have improved since Ma took office in May 2008 and dropped government activities likely to upset China.
"Ma wants to keep relations going (with China), and U.N. applications are not good for those relations," said Alex Chiang, international politics associate professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, was expelled from the United Nations in 1971 in favor of the People's Republic.
Taiwan is designing a publicity campaign this year to replace the U.N. proposal, ministry officials said.
Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Ron Popeski