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Taiwan Says It Now Faces Almost 800 Chinese Missiles

File photo: A Chinese soliders confidently strolls by a Chinese Missile. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Mar 07, 2006
China has now deployed almost 800 missiles which could paralyse Taiwan's communications and transportation and command centers in a 10-hour bombardment, the Taiwanese defence ministry said Tuesday. The ministry highlighted the mounting military threat, and declassified data on the 1996 missile crisis.

This information is being used in an apparent bid to lobby support for a proposed huge arms purchase from the United States.

The move came amid escalating tensions after Taiwan's independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian scrapped an advisory council on unification with the Chinese mainland, provoking fury in Beijing.

"Ten years ago, they were already able to precisely project their ballistic missiles into their targeted areas," a defense ministry official said.

"Now they have deployed 784 ballistic missiles with the entire island coming within their range, with the precision margin narrowing from 600 meters (1,980 feet) to 50 meters," he said.

"Armed with the missiles, they can launch five waves of intensive bombings for 10 hours" targeting the island's military commands, communications centers, airports and harbours, army Lieutenant Colonel Chen Chang-hua told reporters.

The People's Liberation Army flexed its missile muscle in March 1996 by lobbing four missiles into waters off Taiwan. Three of the dummy warheads landed only 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Taiwan's Kaoshiung harbour and the fourth one only 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Keelung harbour.

"The purpose was to display their capabilities to blockade Taiwan should war break out in the area, and their attempts to influence the outcome of Taiwan's first direct presidential polls in 1996," defense ministry spokesman Liou Chih-jein told reporters while showing a map.

The war games were intended to deter Taiwanese from re-electing President Lee Teng-hui, regarded by China as a "splittist". Lee was re-elected despite the missile threat.

The crisis ended only after Washington sent two carrier battle groups to waters off Taiwan.

Taiwan's ruling party initially sought approval for a 19 billion dollar US arms package to be purchased over 15 years, but has since scaled back the amount after the opposition blocked it in parliament.

The latest version of the arms bill calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines, 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft and six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems at a cost of 10.6 billion dollars from the United States.

Tensions rose last week after Chen, defying pressure from Washington and Beijing, formally abolished the National Unification Coucil and its guidelines on eventual reunification with the mainland.

The council was considered largely symbolic and had been dormant since 2000 but Chen's decision infuriated Beijing, which accused the Taiwan leader of pushing the region towards disaster.

Chen said his action was prompted by Beijing's persistent military threat and its attempts to use non-peaceful means to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

Even though the two sides have been governed separately since 1949, China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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