Taiwan vows to seek more arms
Agence France-Presse in Taipei
Feb 08, 2010
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Taiwan's defence minister has vowed to seek more weaponry from the US, which he said would give the island greater confidence in pushing for rapprochement talks with Beijing.
The remarks come as Beijing and Washington are locked in an escalating row over a US arms sale to Taiwan. Beijing has responded with a raft of reprisals, saying it would suspend military and security contacts with Washington, and impose sanctions on American firms involved in the US$6.4 billion deal.
Taiwanese Defence Minister General Kao Hua-chu said on Saturday the arms sale would help stabilise the Taiwan Strait.
"The United States has kept providing Taiwan with defensive weapons according to the Taiwan Relations Act, enabling Taiwan to be more confident in pressing for reconciliation with the Chinese mainland," he said, according to the Military News Agency. "In the future, Taiwan will continue purchasing more weaponry from the United States ... so as to build a smaller and leaner deterrent force."
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allow in more mainland tourists. Still, Beijing has not renounced its use of force against Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949. Also, since 1989, mainland defence budgets have grown by double-digit percentages each year, while those of Taiwan have dwindled to single-digit growth.
At the opening of a security conference in Munich on Friday, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said US arms sales to Taiwan violated standards in international relations and would provoke a reaction.
Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih dismissed Yang's allegations, saying Beijing's continued missile build-up along the coastline facing the island had prompted Taiwan to seek more self-defensive weaponry.
"It's just like two people trying for reconciliation. If one of them sticks a gun in his waist, it would be weird, don't you think so," Wu said in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix satellite television on Saturday. "The people of Taiwan would feel better if China withdrew its missiles hundreds of kilometres."
Taiwan's latest package of US weaponry includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and communication equipment for its F-16 fighter jets, but not the submarines and fighter aircraft it had requested.
Analysts say the United States is unlikely to provide Taiwan with more sophisticated arms or further increase its defence commitment to the island, and that US arms sales to Taiwan will not stop the cross-strait military balance tilting further towards the mainland.