China plans airborne unit near Taiwan Strait: report
HONG KONG (AFP) Aug 26, 2003
China is planning to set up a combat airborne division closer to Taiwan in response to the growing independence movement on the island, a report said Tuesday.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is planning to set up a second airborne division, based in Hangzhou in eastern coastal Zhejiang province, reported the China-backed Wen Wei Po, citing unidentified sources.

The sources said the sitting up of the new airborne division showed the PLA was focusing part of its strategic force on the Taiwan Strait, as "Taiwan indepedence seekers continue to challenge the country's sovereignty".

The report said the stationing of new paratroopers in Zhejiang could cut by half the amount of time needed to fly troops to Taiwan. Currently they would need to be flown from the only existing airborne base in central Hubei province.

It said paratroopers could reach Taipei within an hour.

China has repeatedly threatened to take Taiwan by force if the island declares formal independence.

The island split from the mainland at the end of a civil war in 1949.