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. Taiwan Says It Needs More US Missiles To Counter China Threat

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by Staff Writers
Taipei, Taiwan (AFP) Feb 07, 2006
Taiwan's defense ministry said Tuesday it needs more US-made Patriot anti-missile systems as Chinese ballistic missiles targeting the island are anticipated to more than double to 1,800 by 2013.

Officials from the defense ministry made their case to reporters for more weapons as Taiwan's opposition parties have blocked a 340 billion Taiwan dollars (10.6 billion US) arms purchase package.

China currently has at least 800 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and that number is increasing by 100 a year, the ministry said.

The comments were made as journalists were given access for the first time to a room where confidential computer-simulated war games are held every year.

The results of the simulated drills last year indicated that about one-third of China's ballistic missiles could penetrate Taiwan's half-completed missile shield and cause damage, officials said.

"We need more Patriot missiles to counter the threat," General Hu Chen-pu said.

The defense ministry also expected the Chinese navy to put its first battle carrier group and a fleet of 50 submarines into operation 15 years from now.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has said it is prepared to use force if the island declares formal independence. The two split in 1949 after a civil war.

Taiwan's ruling party had initially asked for 19 billion US dollars for the arms package, but has since scaled back the amount.

The bill, proposed by the defense ministry, has yet to win approval by the procedure committee of the opposition-controlled parliament, a necessary step before it can be heard in the full house.

The opposition parties insist the arms bill is illegal given that the Taiwanese voted against expanded arms purchase in the island's first referendum held simultaneously with presidential polls in March 2004.

Some also say that Taiwan cannot afford the arms deal. The opposition, which favor closer relations with China, also says supplies would come to slowly to keep pace with China's military build-up.

The United States remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite its switching of diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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