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Taiwan Releases Sat Photos Of Chinese Military Bases

AFP | January 20 2006

Taiwan's defense ministry on Thursday released satellite photos of Chinese military bases in an rare move aimed at winning support for a huge arms purchase plan repeatedly blocked by parliament.

"Posing the biggest threats to Taiwan are the ballistic missiles deployed in Leping, Yongan and Ganzhou in Jiangxi province," an unidentified army officer told reporters as he showed satellite photos.

The Pentagon last year warned that China had deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan.

Another Taiwanese military officer said China's People Liberation Army has deployed fighters and bomber fleets at four air bases in Fujian province facing Taiwan.

"Russian-made Su-27 fighter jets were found for the first time in July last year at Liancheng (in Fujian)," the officer said.

"The photo clearly shows the Su-27s were armed with missiles. They can fly to Taiwan's airspace in seven minutes."

China in 1996 launched ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan's two major ports to try to intimidate voters not to vote for President Lee Teng-hui, who was seeking re-election.

The tactic backfired and Lee won another term.

Even though the two sides have been governed separately since 1949, China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary.

"We are racing against time. If we don't do it (arms purchase) today, we'll regret it tomorrow," Defense Minister Lee Jye told a press conference.

He said Taiwan badly needs the 10-billion-US dollar package of defensive weaponry from the United States to deter an attack.

Lawmakers from two main opposition parties have repeatedly blocked the package even though the total cost has been scaled back from 19 billion dollars.

The opposition insists the arms bill is illegal after Taiwanese voted against expanded arms purchases in the island's first referendum held simultaneously with presidential polls in March 2004.

The latest version of the arms bill calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines and 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft from the United States over a 15-year period for around 340 billion Taiwan dollars (10 billion US).

The six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems included in the original bill would be financed by the government's yearly budgets.

Some opposition lawmakers said Taiwan could not afford the arms deal. Others said the equipment would be delivered too slowly to enable the island to catch up with China's military build-up


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