Sat, Feb 14, 2009 - Page 1 News List

China increases missiles pointed at Taiwan to 1,500

By Ralph Jennings  /  REUTERS , TAIPEI

China has increased the number of short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan to about 1,500, officials and experts said yesterday, a sign of continued distrust between the two sides despite a recent warming of ties.

China expanded its arsenal last year even as tensions eased after the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said.

“In this period of warmth, a war won’t break out, but don’t forget China still has 1,500 missiles aimed at Taiwan — more than 1,500 — and that’s not right,” Lai said. “They’re always adding [missiles].”

The Ministry of National Defense estimated early last year that there were 1,300 missiles pointing at Taiwan.

“This is something that we keep appealing about to mainland China, to take the missiles offline,” Lai said. “If you take so many missiles and aim them at a neighbor, will he feel comfortable?”

Beijing added missiles every year as a deterrent and to update its arsenals, said Andrew Yang (楊念祖), secretary-general with the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taipei think tank.

Dong Feng 11 and Dong Feng 15 short-range ballistic missiles are believed to be based in southeast China, about 160km away.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has cut annual live-fire military drills to once every two years and reduced its defense budget for this year.

China’s defense budget for this year has not been released. Last year, the government said it would spend 418 billion yuan (US$61 billion) on defense, up 17.6 percent from the previous year.

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