Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Shanghai to hold its biggest air raid drill since 1949

FLASHPOINT The drill, to be held tomorrow, will last 23 minutes but will not require pedestrians to take cover and cars will not be stopped

REUTERS , BEIJING

China is to hold a major air raid drill in Shanghai, a sign that the country's leadership views war with Taiwan as a possibility.

Tomorrow's drill will coincide with a rally in Kaohsiung City at which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will try to mobilize 500,000 people to demonstrate support for the Taiwan's bid for UN membership.

Many security analysts see the Taiwan Strait as one of the most dangerous flashpoints in Asia.

Shanghai's air raid drill, the city's biggest since the 1949 Communist revolution, will last 23 minutes.

However, pedestrians will not be required to take cover and cars will not be stopped.

"It's to familiarize people with the sound of sirens," an official with Shanghai's civil defense office surnamed Wang said. "It's to strengthen the people's sense of national defense and civil defense awareness."

The civil defense office and the Taiwan Affairs Office declined to say whether the drills were in preparation for a war.

Only sections of Shanghai took part in a similar drill on May 20, 2004, which coincided with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration.

threat

In 2004, then Taiwan Premier Yu Shi-kun had issued a threat to fire missiles at Shanghai if Taiwan was attacked.

Chen plans a referendum next March on Taiwan's UN bid, which -- if passed -- analysts say Beijing would see as a formal declaration of independence.

Chinese academics have said China would be forced to react, possibly militarily, if the referendum was passed.

"This is an undisguised Taiwan independence splittist act. It's provocation," Li Weiyi (李維一), spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, told a news conference on Wednesday.

"If Chen Shui-bian insists on having it his way, he will have to accept all grave consequences arising from this," Li said.

In Sydney last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) told US President George W. Bush that the next two years would be a period of "high danger" in the Strait.

olympics

But China, which will host the Olympics next August, has turned to the US to try to rein in Taiwan.

Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, concluded a two-day visit to Europe on Tuesday to rally international support against the referendum.

While the DPP's UN referendum proposal suggests the nation apply for UN membership under the name "Taiwan," the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) will also stage a rally in Taichung tomorrow hoping to drum up support for its UN referendum proposal suggesting that the nation use the name "Republic of China" (ROC), or any other "practical" title that would uphold the country's dignity, to "return" to the UN.

The KMT expects its Taichung rally to draw hundreds of thousands of participants.

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