Taiwan official says China threat growing: reports
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 12:59 AM
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A senior Taiwanese official has told a defense forum in the United States that despite rapidly warming commercial relations with Taipei, China's military threat against the island is growing, Taiwanese media reported Tuesday.
The reports call into question the efficacy of China's efforts to use its huge financial resources to convince Taiwanese both in and out of government that political union with the mainland is in the island's interest.
Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang told a U.S.-Taiwan Business Council meeting in Maryland on Monday that despite considerable progress on commercial ties, the mainland is continuing to deploy more and more sophisticated weapons against the island, according to reports Tuesday from opposition and pro-government newspapers and the government-owned Central News Agency.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry said it couldn't confirm Yang's remarks.
The media outlets quoted Yang as saying that China has never renounced its threats to attack Taiwan, and that its anti-Taiwanese military posture is at odds with the recent signing of a landmark trade deal between the sides.
That deal is part of an overall Chinese offensive to woo Taiwanese opinion with promises of lucrative commercial concessions. It aims to overcome strong Taiwanese opposition to unification, the ultimate aim of China's Taiwan policy since the sides split amid civil war in 1949.
The media reports said that in his remarks Yang referenced a recent comment by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie to a Japanese delegation that China's 15-year-long military buildup was aimed primarily at Taiwan.
China currently deploys an estimated 1,500 missiles against Taiwan. The number continues to grow, despite the overall improvement in relations between the sides that has taken place since China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou assumed the Taiwanese presidency in May 2008.
In a related development, both the pro-government United Daily News and the pro-opposition Liberty Times quoted an unnamed official as saying that the Obama administration has approved an upgrade of Taiwan's fleet of U.S.-made F-16 A/B jet fighters.
United Daily News and CNA also reported that U.S.-Taiwan Business Council head Rupert Hammond-Chambers said the administration will agree to sell Taiwan relatively advanced F-16C/Ds, long at the top of the island's military wish list.
The council is a private group.
Any sales of U.S. weapons to Taiwan would almost certainly prompt an angry Chinese reaction, based on Beijing's belief that Taiwan is part of its territory, and that foreign countries have no business interfering in its affairs.