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Taiwan needs arms package for defense against China threat: president

AFP | July 6, 2005

President Chen Shui-bian defended Wednesday a proposed multibillion-dollar arms package that has been rejected by parliament, saying it was vital to protect Taiwan against China's growing military threat.

Beijing's intentions were illustrated in its enactment of a law allowing military action should Taiwan seek formal independence from China and its stockpiling of weapons targeting the island, Chen said.

"China's enactment of an 'anti-secession law' in mid-March ... is part of Beijing's tactics to bring Taiwan to its knees," Chen said in a statement marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

"China has continued its arms build-up and increased the deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan," he said.

The Taiwan government needed to have sufficient capabilities to defend its 23 million people against the threat.

"Only by enhancing our self-defense capabilities can we have dignity and bargaining chips in any negotiations with China," Chen said.

Parliament in March rejected a bill for a 15.2-billion-dollar arms package that had been trimmed down from an initial 19.3-billion-dollar proposal that was also rejected.

The bill, which has been approved by cabinet but needs parliamentary approval, is expected to be reintroduced in September.

The arms package provides 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 United States over a 15-year period beginning 2005.

Taiwan's defense ministry says China has deployed at least 700 ballistic missiles along its southeastern coast just opposite the island, and the number could rise to 800 before the end of 2006.

Taiwan is also alarmed by Beijing's passing of the anti-secession law, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of the capital Taipei to protest.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned this year that China was spending considerably more on its military than officially acknowledged and asked why it had so many missiles aimed at Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. The island has effectively ruled itself since splitting from the mainland after a civil war in 1949.

Tensions have risen since the pro-independence Chen won the presidency in 2000. He was re-elected last year.



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