China to have 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan in 2006: defense minister
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China to have 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan in 2006: defense minister

AFP | March 9, 2005

The number of Chinese ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan is expected to reach at least 800 next year, the island's defense minister Lee Jye said Wednesday.

The People's Liberation Army currently has 700 ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, Lee said in his first report to the new session of parliament.

"The number is estimated to increase to 800 next year," Lee warned in a call for support of a new 480 billion Taiwan dollar (15.24 billion US) arms package aimed at deterring China.

His report came one day after Taipei lodged what one senior Taiwanese official called "the strongest protest" against "threats resorting to violent means" by China, which on Tuesday outlined an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan.

Beijing reiterated it was prepared to use force to bring the island to heel but only after all other avenues are exhausted.

The alternative to force was peaceful reunification using the one country, two systems model adopted by Hong Kong, according to Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the National People's Congress, or parliament.

Beijing on Friday announced it would boost military spending 12.6 percent this year to 247.7 billion yuan (29.9 billion dollars).

Taiwan's special arms budget calls for the purchase of six US-made Pac-3 anti-missile systems, eight conventional submarines and a fleet of submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft from the United States over 15 years beginning this year.

Since pro-independence president Chen Shui-bian was re-elected in March, Beijing has stressed its long-standing vow to take Taiwan by force should it declare formal independence.

Taiwan has already put into service three US-made PAC-2 anti-missile systems to protect the greater Taipei area.

The defense ministry and Chen have said China would increase the deployment of missiles targeting Taiwan at a speed of 75 per year.

Lee said land-based cruise missiles being developed by China could also be used "to launch a long-distance strike blitz on Taiwan."

Military analysts say Taiwan's military commands, communications, airports and sea ports would be vulnerable to surprise Chinese missile attacks.

Should war break out, China's elite combat troops and marines could attack Taiwan's airports and harbours while its "Fifth Column," or agents, could strike from within, Lee said.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be unified since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Taipei's cabinet last year approved a special weapons budget of 610.8 billion Taiwan dollars but the opposition called it excessive and demanded a cutback to 300 billion dollars.

In a bid to win parliament's approval, the government last month slashed by almost a quarter the cost of the package.

Washington has warned there would be "repercussions" if Taiwan fails to approve the budget, officials have said.

Some critics say Taiwan cannot afford the spending while others say the weaponry will not be delivered in time to fend off any attack from China in coming years.

Others say it could fuel an arms race with Beijing, which regards the island as a renegade province.

The United States remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite its switching of diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the United States is obliged to provide arms "of a defensive nature" to the island.

 

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