Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MAC, Chinese office trade barbs over arms deal

SABER RATTLING MAC officials called Beijing the source of tension in the Taiwan Strait after the Chinese foreign minister said independence moves were `doomed to failure'

By Melody Chen and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday the country must step up its defensive capability because China would not renounce a military option with regard to tension in the Taiwan Strait.

"Beijing is the cause of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. It has no right to comment on our efforts to strengthen our national defense," the council said in a statement.

Taiwan's plan to purchase weapons from the US is needed to maintain cross-strait peace, the council added.

Beijing's leaders yesterday accused Taiwan of "war-provoking behavior" after Premier Yu Shyi-kun said the nation should strike Shanghai with missiles in the event of an attack by China.

The Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council also lashed out at the planned multi-billion-dollar arms purchase, suggesting it was intended to secure Taiwan's independence.

"The TAO's remarks are inappropriate and unhelpful for cross-strait relations," council officials said.

Yu angered Beijing last week when he said the weapons were needed to maintain a balance of power, and that if China hit the nation with missiles Taiwan should "at least hit Shanghai."

"This demonstrates Taiwan's ambitions of using force and its false attitude toward peace and independence," said Li Weiyi (李維一), a spokesman for the TAO.

Li accused President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of "creating tension and damaging peace in the Taiwan Strait."

He also said Taiwan was "obstinately carrying out splittist activities" -- Beijing's rhetoric for pursuing formal independence.

Taiwan's US$18 billion plan to buy US made anti-missile systems, aircraft and submarines sparked a protest attended by thousands last weekend in Taipei. Demonstrators complained that the deal would start a costly arms race with China.

Beijing has asked Washington to scrap the deal.

Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) warned that Beijing will not tolerate any international interference in Taiwan during an address to the UN General Assembly.

Li said China's policy toward Taiwan "remains unchanged" under the new leadership of President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who took over as head of the military commission earlier this month after former president and military chief Jiang Zemin (江澤民) retired from the post three years early.

"Taiwan belongs to all the Chinese people. Any attempt to change the status of Taiwan by referendum is illegal and not valid. We will not allow Taiwan to be separate," Li said. "Any attempt will be doomed to failure."

Responding to criticism leveled by China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that Beijing's military intimidation and diplomatic suppression will only lead to a bigger chasm across the Taiwan Strait.

"China is the one who is hostile and provocative because it has more than 600 ballistic missiles aimed at us and will not stop suppressing our diplomatic endeavors," he said at a press conference held after the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon.

Taiwan will never be the one to take the initiative to launch a military assault or change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, nor will we do anything to irritate the 1.3 billion Chinese people, he added.

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