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Taiwan Leader Calls For Arms Build-Up To Counter China's Threat

AFP | June 8, 2005

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian called Wednesday for an arms build-up after the United States warned of China's growing military threat in the region.

"What we are facing is a regime which is not democratic in politics. Its decision-making process is not transparent, and uncertainty lies ahead of its future," Chen said while inspecting a military base in southern Kaohsiung county.

As such, Taiwan must step up its defense capability, and if not, "the 23 million people in Taiwan and our offsprings may have to pay dearly should a crisis happen," Chen said, referring to the threat of invasion from China.

The pro-independence leader has repeatedly warned that China has at least 700 ballistic missiles ready for use against Taiwan if it moves toward formal independence.

Chen said he was deeply worried that the island's multi-billion-dollar arms build-up plan could be stalled in the opposition-dominated parliament.

"We must build up a sufficient self-defense capability if we are to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty, dignity, democracy and economic achievements from China's threat," he said.

Taiwan's defense ministry in March reintroduced a 15.2-billion-dollar arms bill in parliament after an initial 19.3-billion-dollar proposal was rejected by parliament. But the new bill has also failed to clear parliament.

The arms package, approved by Taiwan's cabinet, calls for the purchase of six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems, eight conventional submarines and a fleet of submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft from the US over a 15-year period.

Some opposition lawmakers said Taiwan could not afford it while others said the time-period for the delivery of the equipment was too long to fend off any attack from China.

Chen's remarks came after US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on a visit to Singapore warned that China was spending considerably more on its military than officially acknowledged and asked why it had so many missiles aimed at Taiwan.

China earlier this year announced a 12.6 percent increase in military spending to 244.65 billion yuan, or 29.5 billion dollars.

Though they are ruled separately, China considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Tensions have risen since the pro-independence Chen won the presidency in 2000, ending the opposition Kuomintang's 51-year grip on power. He was re-elected last year.


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