Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Beijing strengthening military to contain Taiwan


China said yesterday it would strengthen its military ability to block Taiwan from pursuing independence, complaining about US arms sales to Taipei, while also trying to quell foreign unease about its rapid buildup.

In its latest military policy paper, the government said it would also focus on strengthening its ability to police its borders and territorial waters, cracking down on terrorism and modernizing its weapons.

"China will not engage in any arms race or pose a military threat to any other country," the 91-page white paper said. "China is determined to remain a staunch force for global peace, security and stability."

The communist nation's 2.3 million-strong military is the world's largest but has been criticized for the lack of transparency about its buildup.

Its reported budget for 2006 was 283.8 billion yuan (US$35.3 billion), but the Pentagon believes the true figure, which doesn't include weapons purchases and other key items, is several times higher. In comparison, US President George W. Bush has signed a bill authorizing US$532.8 billion in defense spending for the 2007 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

One of Beijing's key short-term goals has been to back up its threat to invade Taiwan if the nation moves to make its de facto independence permanent.

China has hundreds of missiles pointed at Taiwan and has also spent heavily to beef up its arsenal with submarines, jet fighters and other high-tech weapons.

"The struggle to oppose and contain the separatist forces for Taiwan independence and their activities remains a hard one," said the report from the State Council, China's Cabinet.

It indirectly criticized the US for promising Beijing that it would adhere to the "one-China" policy, "but it continues to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan, and has strengthened military ties with Taiwan."

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but remains Taiwan's major foreign backer, and is committed by law to providing it with weapons to defend itself against a possible Chinese attack.

China has announced double-digit military spending increases almost every year since the early 1990s, causing unease among its neighbors.

But despite its huge size, its forces are said to lag well behind those of other major countries.

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