Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 1 News List

China slams Pentagon report on missile threat

REACTION Under no circumstances will China tolerate anything or anyone interfering with the mission of reunification, its defense minister said on Army Day


China denounced the US yesterday for a Pentagon report accusing it of deploying more and more ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and said Washington was making excuses to sell advanced weapons to Taipei.

The defense minister, Cao Gangchuan (曹剛川), used the occasion of Army Day to underscore the mantra of Beijing's rulers that they would not tolerate any attempt to prevent reunification with Taiwan.

Diplomats eyed the Pentagon's annual report on China's military might warily, saying it reflected the overall hawkish approach of the current administration.

They noted that one of the few major differences this year was an increase in production of short-range ballistic missiles from 50 a year to 75.

"The motive is to foment public opinion and excuses to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement when asked to comment on the report. "The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition."'

"Realizing the complete reunification of the motherland is the common desire of all Chinese people, including Taiwan compatriots," Cao said in comments carried by the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece.

"We have the determination and the ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Cao said on Thursday during celebrations to mark the 76th anniversary of the founding of the 2.5-million-strong People's Liberation Army on August 1.

"We will never allow anyone to separate Taiwan from China in any way," said Cao, a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and a member of the Communist Party's elite Politburo.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday Beijing was boosting military spending and deploying more ballistic missiles to prepare for a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait aimed at bringing the democratic country to its knees before the US has time to intervene.

Arms race

* The Pentagon says that China now has 450 missiles pointed at Taiwan and is increasing this number by 75 a year.

* China says that the US is just trying to make an excuse for selling Taiwan more weapons.

* An expert in Taiwan believes the country's biggest problem is that people just are not prepared to fight.

China's recent hard-line statements about cross-Strait relations, and the military buildup, "may reflect an increasing willingness to consider the use of force to achieve unification, or, at a minimum, to demonstrate an upgraded military capability in hopes of deterring Taiwan from moving further toward independence," the Pentagon report said.

One Taiwanese military expert said the most crucial issue facing the island was its lack of attention to defense.

"The most serious problem facing Taiwan at the moment is its people lack the desire to fight. Taiwan has not fought a war in the past decades and its people do not want to fight one now," said retired general Shuai Hua-ming. "This is our weakest point.

"Building a strong national defense is expensive. Taiwan's defense spending has not increased much over the past years. The United States is trying to tell Taiwan, if you want to protect itself, you must be willing to pay a price," Shuai said.

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