Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Jiang promises to attack Taiwan by 2020

REUTERS , BEIJING

China has kicked off war games simulating an invasion of Taiwan, witnesses and a Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper said yesterday, as military chief Jiang Zemin (江澤民) vowed to attack the democratic country by 2020.

China believes President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will push for formal statehood during his second term, and is preparing for a possible showdown with Taiwan.

The week-long land, sea and air exercises started on Dongshan island off China's southeastern coast in the first half the month after months of preparation, the Ta Kung Pao newspaper said.

About 18,000 troops were taking part in the exercises, which would aim for the first time to demonstrate air superiority in the Taiwan Strait, the paper said.

But it was business as usual for Dongshan residents.

"I can see ships and soldiers, but it's far away ... I have no time to watch the exercises," a resident who would only give his surname, Chi, said by telephone from Dongshan.

"Why worry? There are exercises every year," he said.

A hotel employee said: "It's a secret. We're not allowed to watch or ask questions lest we're mistaken for spies."

Dongshan, 280 km from Penghu, has been the site of eight drills since 1996, when China attempted to interfere with the nation's first-ever presidential elections by launching ballistic missiles into the Taiwan Strait, before backing down after the US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region.

The period "before or after 2020 is the time to resolve the Taiwan issue," military chief and ex-Communist Party chief Jiang told a recent expanded meeting of the Central Military Commission, the decision-making body of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper said.

The meeting also approved military, political, logistics and armament development plans over an unspecified period for the 2.5-million-strong PLA, the newspaper said. It gave no details.

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-shan (邱太三) called for negotiations and peace.

"We need to sit down and discuss any problems concerning both sides. We must try to resolve our problems on the basis of peace and stability," Chiu told a news conference.

"The United States, Japan and the European Union have all said cross-Strait issues should be resolved through peaceful means," he said. "Communist China has pledged to focus on economic development. The report clearly violates its policy."

Taiwan is holding the annual Han Kuang, or "Han Glory" exercises later this month to test combat readiness in the face of what Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) has said was a significantly higher likelihood that China would use force to recover the island.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said a crisis-simulation drill based on a growing Chinese military threat to Taiwan was played out this week by US decision makers.

The exercise, called Dragon's Thunder, was held on Monday.

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