Tue, Dec 02, 2003 - Page 3 News List

President details missile threat

CROSS-STRAIT MENACE Chen Shui-bian, looking to win support for a `defensive referendum' on sovereignty, said China has 496 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has detailed the arsenal of Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan in his latest move to build a case for a contentious sovereignty vote next year.

Chen said late Sunday it was the first time he had specified the location of bases within 600km holding 496 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan. The move is likely to inflame already tense relations with Beijing.

His latest comments, at an election rally, have already prompted criticism from the opposition camp, which claimed he had leaked military secrets.

His speech is seen as part of a plan to rally support for a referendum on unspecified sovereignty issues to run alongside the presidential elections on March 20.

Beijing and Chen's political opponents claimed they had dealt the president a telling blow at a legislative vote last week when they effectively blocked his plans for a series of referendums.

However, Chen has tried to cite a clause in the new law that allows him to stage a ballot on "issues of national security concern" in the event of a foreign threat. Over the weekend, he sought to depict China as a clear and present danger to the nation.

Pinpointing the numbers of missiles, Chen said China had deployed 96 missiles each in Leping and Ganxian of Jiangxi Province, Meizhou of Guangdong Province, as well as 144 in Yongan and 64 in Xianyou of Fujian Province.

"And they often held war games threatening to attack Taiwan ... this is the ongoing threat toward Taiwan," Chen said while addressing a group of supporters.

Chen said he could not work out why Taiwan had to accept an imposed political design of "one country, two systems" or face an invasion.

However People First Party (PFP) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said yesterday Chen should not have leaked military secrets for political reasons.

"I have never seen a `big mouth' president like Chen. He did this only to fan the sentiment of his supporters," Lin said, adding that Chen's remarks might reveal the source of Taiwan's military information.

Asked by Lin if Chen had broken the nation's intelligence law by disclosing information about China's missile deployment at a Legislative Yuan committee meeting, Vice Defense Minister Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said the president is the armed forces' top commander. According to the basic operation rules of democracy, Lin said, the military is not in a position to comment on any of the president's statements.

Commenting on Lin Yu-fan's criticism, James Huang (黃志芳), a Presidential Office spokesman, said yesterday that what Chen had revealed was China's national secrets, not Taiwan's.

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