Angry right-wing groups set fire to the US flag yesterday in a march against what they called Washington's backing for the independence campaign by some Taiwanese separatists.
Hundreds of slogan-chanting protesters demanded reunification with China, warning that independence would bring disaster to Taiwan's 23 million people and saying reconciliation was the only way to be sure of peace.
The crowd condemned "US imperialism" and a man wearing a mask of US President George W. Bush was symbolically laid out on a huge US flag in front of the American Institute in Taiwan. The Stars and Stripes was later torched.
"We put Bush on the ground because he owes Taiwanese people an apology," an unnamed protest leader told the rally through a loudspeaker.
The protesters said the Taipei government must stop arming itself and instead open rapprochement talks with Beijing.
"[The last arms deal] cost us NT$390 billion [US$11.3 billion]. This time the cost could run up to NT$700 billion," said a protest leader. "They are all a waste of money."
The first arms package he referred to was for 150 F-16 fighters, 200 Patriot anti-missile systems, seven Perry-class frigates and other weaponry.
The second he mentioned was a shopping list that included eight diesel-powered submarines, 12 P-3C submarine hunting aircraft, four Kidd-class destroyers, long-range warning radar systems, attack helicopters and more Patriot missiles.
The US has remained the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite its shifting of diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
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