Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chinese defense chief makes threats to celebrate holiday

`SPLITTISTS' BEWARE China's top soldier marked the 79th anniversary of the founding of the PLA with rhetoric reminiscent of a bygone era yesterday

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan (曹剛川) threatened Taiwan to mark the 79th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) yesterday, calling on China's military to hasten its modernization.

The minister said that Beijing would never tolerate Taiwan declaring itself independent. Although he stopped short of directly threatening the use of force against the self-governed island, Beijing last year codified into law what it perceives as its right to use "non-peaceful means" to prevent the self-ruled nation of Taiwan from "moving toward independence."

Cao also vowed that China's military modernization would continue, in remarks carried in the People's Liberation Army Daily that were thick with political rhetoric but lacking specifics on new arms purchases or weapons expenditure.

"[We will] never tolerate Taiwan['s] independence, and will never permit Taiwan[ese] independence splittists to use any name or method to separate Taiwan from the motherland," Cao said at a banquet to mark the PLA anniversary.

"We will uphold the central government's policy direction on the Taiwan question; with the utmost sincerity and hardest work will push for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification," Cao said.

"At the same time, we uphold the sacred duty to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity and security," he said in language typically used by top Chinese leaders on Taiwan.

"We must strengthen the building of weaponry, focusing on developing advanced arms and pay attention to the proper use of these weapons to raise the forces' fighting strength," he said.

Cao said it was important for the army to speed up its mechanization and use of information technology, upgrade its weapons and develop into a "revolutionary, modern and regular army."

"We will adapt ourselves to the new trend in the conduct of war and fighting, address the actual need of the PLA to strengthen its mechanization and IT capabilities," Cao said.

China's 2.5 million troops will also conduct "strict and tough training under war conditions and establish a scientific system of military training under IT conditions," he was quoted as saying.

"China is now in a key period of reform and development. This is also an important period of accelerating the enhancement of China's military capabilities," Cao said.

China's defense expenditures are officially projected to be US$35 billion this year, but many independent experts believe the real figure is significantly higher.

In an annual defense white paper issued yesterday, the Japan Defense Agency also urged China to disclose military data to allay neighbors' fears about Beijing's military build-up.

The People's Liberation Army Daily, decked out with red headlines for Army Day, carried only two pictures of military hardware in the whole edition -- one of a fighter jet based on a 1950s Soviet design, and the other of second-rate anti-aircraft guns.

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