Taiwan is planning to cut the number of soldiers stationed on three island groups near China to improve relations between the two rival countries, according to a report.

Top military officials said that the number of troops could be reduced to fewer than 10,000 on the Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu islands.

The downsizing would compensate for the shortage of ground forces defending the main Taiwanese Island.

Taiwan’s defence ministry announced in March that it would reduce its armed forces by more than a fifth (to 215,000) by 2014 and scrap compulsory military service in five years.

Relations between Taiwan and China have improved considerably since President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT took office in May 2008.