Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 4 News List

China to have 800 missiles by 2005, vice president says

REUTERS , Taipei

China will have 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan by 2005, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said yesterday, defending a controversial statement that the nation and its giant communist foe were in a state of "quasi-war."

That would be a substantial increase from the 500 missiles that Taiwan says China already has set up along its southeastern coast in preparation for a possible military showdown to take back the island it views as a renegade province.

"More information has indicated the situation in the Taiwan Strait has entered into a very sensitive stage. I described it as on the verge of a quasi-war," the outspoken Lu said, who is among the government's fiercest critics of China.

"China has accelerated its missile deployment. By next year, the number of missiles will likely reach 800 and it is growing at a speed faster than we have expected," she said in a briefing with foreign media reporters.

Lu said her "quasi-war" description last Friday -- which prompted President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) office to issue a rare denial to cool confrontational rhetoric with China -- was an "objective description of the fact."

China is becoming increasingly concerned Taiwan will adopt a new constitution by 2008, a move Beijing sees as tantamount to formally declaring statehood.

Dangerous Flashpoint

Some analysts view the Taiwan Strait as the most dangerous flashpoint in Asia.

Chen said last November that China has deployed 500 missiles against Taiwan and is adding to them at a rate of one every six days. To meet that threat, he hopes the legislature will approve a NT$610 billion (US$18 billion) budget to buy US weapons.

Lu called for the world to treat the crisis in the Taiwan Strait more seriously. She invited representatives from more than 20 countries to attend a conference in Taipei from August 13 to 15 to discuss democracy and regional security.

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