Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Nation displays military capabilities during parade

By Ko Shu-ling and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AGENCIES

With sporadic protests inside and outside the celebration venue, Taiwan yesterday celebrated the 96th birthday of the Republic of China (ROC), marking the event with a military parade.

But for the first time, the president did not make a public speech.

The last military parade on National Day was held 16 years ago. Yesterday's event had three components: a flyby, a ground forces parade and parachuting.

Many, however, were disappointed when the paratrooper landing was canceled because of poor weather.

The rally began in front of the Presidential Office plaza at 9am, with hundreds of elementary school, high school and college students making rock 'n' roll performances, traditional Hakka folk dance and dances based on Taiwanese folk tales.

The performances were followed by a flyby of US-made F-16s, French-made Mirages and Taiwan-made IDF fighters above the Presidential Office as ramrod-straight honor guards in blue-and-white uniforms wielded rifles on the ground.

Armored personnel carriers roared by, along with navy radar and satellite communication vehicles.

They were followed by launch vehicles carrying US Patriot II and Avenger anti-missile systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Also showcased was other advanced hardware, including eight-wheel-drive CM-32 Cloud Leopard vehicles, an Avenger air defense missile system armed with Stinger missiles, a 50-caliber machine gun and armored Humvees equipped with TOW armor-piercing missiles.

An AAVP7 Assault Amphibian Vehicle purchased from the US in 2001, mobile army and marine radar, fire-fighting vehicles of the chemical corps and a pontoon bridge of the engineering corps were also showcased.

The highlights were two locally developed missiles unveiled for the first time.

They were the Hsiung Feng-III supersonic anti-ship missile and the Tien Kung-III anti-tactical ballistic missile.

The Hsiung Feng III ship-to-ship missile is believed to be capable of attacking fuel tanks and ammunition depots on a vessel.

The Tien Kung III, for its part, is believed to be able to track and knock down aircraft and cruise missiles.

However the Hsiung Feng II-E was not on display, as it is still in the development stages, Ministry of National Defense officials said. While specifications are not available, analysts say it has a range of at least 600km and can be launched on land or at sea.

With snipers deployed on rooftops and 4,000 police officers in place, security was heavy during the celebration.

Minutes after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sat down at the reviewing stand, a member of the pro-unification Patriot Association clad in red baseball cap and red shirt bearing Chinese characters that read "Taiwan and China are of the same root and are inseparable" began shouting.

He struggled with security personnel before being escorted away.

A woman sitting nearby in a red dress flashed the thumb-down sign used by members of last year's anti-Chen campaign and shouted, "A-bian [Chen's nickname], step down."

Led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), the anti-Chen campaigners "besieged" the Presidential Office during last year's National Day, demanding Chen's resignation at the height of corruption allegations involving Chen, first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and his close aides.

The protest caused Chen to suggest in his public address last year that it would be a good idea to cancel the National Day celebration this year.

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