China threat bigger than ever despite thaw: Taiwan
China's military threat against Taiwan is bigger than ever, the island's defence ministry said Tuesday, despite three years of efforts by Taipei to pursue detente with the mainland.
In its national defence report, published every other year, the ministry summarised mounting endeavours by China to boost its already impressive military capabilities.
"The People's Liberation Army has continued to deploy various new weapons in the Fujian and Guangdong areas," the report said, referring to two Chinese provinces located directly to the west of Taiwan.
The report singled out "the enhancement of its long-distance combat projection capabilities", an apparent reference to more than 1,000 ballistic missiles deployed along the Chinese coastline.
"This indicates that the Chinese communists have not altered their thinking on military intimidation and invasion," it said.
Relations with Beijing have improved greatly since 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party was elected president of Taiwan on a platform of strengthening mainland ties, chiefly via economic measures.
Even so, Beijing refuses to abandon the possibility of taking Taiwan by force, even though the island has ruled itself since 1949, when the two sides split at the end of a civil war.
"Despite reduced tensions in the past three years, we couldn't possibly expect Beijing to roll back its military at this point," said Alexander Huang, an expert on China ties at Tamkang University in Taipei.
"What if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seizes power again in the 2012 presidential elections?" he said, referring to the island's leading pro-independence opposition party.
Analysts say a DPP victory could chill the fast-warming ties across the Taiwan Strait.
The defence report triggered an immediate reaction from the DPP, which urged the Ma administration to set aside a bigger slice of the national budget for Taiwan's military.
"We don't want to engage in an arms race against China, but at least Taiwan needs to maintain a self-defence capability. So the military spending should be adjusted upward step by step," DPP legislator Pan Meng-an said.
The report said the Chinese air force has deployed new-generation fighter jets at airbases along the mainland's southeastern coastline, defended by new long-distance air defence missiles.
The Chinese military is capable of imposing a blockade of Taiwan and taking Taiwan-controlled offshore islands by force, the report warned.
"With the military expecting to keep tipping balance in favour of the People's Liberation Army in the years ahead, the military threat towards Taiwan will be getting worse in the future," it said.
The report said that in the 20 years to 2009, China's military spending has maintained double-digit growth nearly every year, with total spending ranking first in Asia and threatening other countries in the region.