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. China says US help to Taiwan on missile defence will erode trust
BEIJING (AFP) Sep 01, 2005
China Thursday warned the United States and other countries that any help they give Taiwan to protect itself against a missile threat would erode trust and undermine regional peace and stability.

The comments were made in a white paper -- China's Endeavours for Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation -- issued before a visit to the United States next week by President Hu Jintao.

"As the Taiwan question involves its core interests, China opposes the attempt by any country to provide help or protection to the Taiwan region of China in the field of missile defence by any means," it said.

"China does not wish to see a missile defence system produce negative impact on global strategic stability, bring new unstable factors to international and regional peace and stability, erode trust among big powers or undermine legitimate security interests of other countries."

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to use force to retake the island should it formally declare independence.

It has some 700 ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan and could target the island with 1,200 ballistic and cruise missiles by 2014, the Taiwan defence ministry says.

Taiwan has already put into service three US-made PAC-2 anti-missile systems to protect the greater Taipei area, but has called for more help from Washington.

Earlier this year it said it would need around 21 Patriot missiles to intercept and destroy any first wave of cruise missile attacks by China.

As such, it said it needs more anti-missile weaponry to prevent it being paralyzed after China's first missile strikes.

In March, Taipei's cabinet approved an arms deal which calls for the purchase of six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems, along with eight conventional submarines and a fleet of submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft from the United States over 15 years.

Taiwan's parliament has failed so far to ratify the deal.

Each PAC-3 will be able to track 18 targets simultaneously and cover a defense area of 400 square kilometers (160 square miles), defence officials have said.

The PAC-2s are only designed to track nine targets simultaneously and cover an area of 225 square kilometers.

The massive budget proposal stirred heated debate on the island as critics said the spending could further provoke China and heighten cross-strait tensions.

The United States remains Taiwan's leading arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979. Under the Taiwan Relations Act it is obliged to provide arms "of a defensive nature".

Hu leaves for the United States on Monday and will meet President George W. Bush on Wednesday. The Taiwan question remains the thorniest issue in Sino-US relations.

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