- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

TAIPEI, Taiwan A more aggressive China could force reunification between the mainland and the democratic Republic of China (Taiwan) before the end of the decade, a new government report here says.
"Taiwan shouldn't rule out the possibility that China will set the timetable to unify with or stage military intimidation against Taiwan by 2010," says an analysis by the government's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission.
The warning comes as Taiwan discusses the purchase of an unprecedented level of defensive weapons from the United States to offset about 400 missiles the mainland has targeted at the island nation that China considers a renegade province.
Taiwan's military is interested in an array of modern hardware, including Kidd-class destroyers, anti-submarine patrol aircraft and diesel-powered submarines.
The new threat assessment from Taiwan echoes the findings of a Pentagon report earlier this year that said increased defense spending by Beijing gave the mainland "an increasing number of credible options to intimidate or actually attack Taiwan."
China's missile deployments in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces along the mainland's southeast coast pose a serious threat, officials here say. But Taiwan's naval and air force give it superiority over the mainland in the Taiwan Strait, the 100-mile stretch of sea that separates the bitter rivals.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who stepped down last month as leader of China's Communist Party but continues to oversee the military, in October told President Bush that he was willing to scale back missile deployments targeting Taiwan if Washington cut military sales, according to officials here.
But the offer has generated little interest, according to Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan's representative in Washington, who briefed lawmakers here on the proposal.
Despite the fresh government warnings about China's long-term intentions toward Taiwan, analysts believe the mainland's new leadership is not eager to press the Taiwan issue unless provoked by pro-independence forces on the island.
"The missiles are there to quell talk of independence," said Andrew Yang, director of the Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "The leaders in Beijing fear that if they back off, it might be taken as a sign that they'll tolerate a little independence in Taiwan."
Antonio Chang, deputy director of Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian's National Security Council, said Mr. Bush's substantial offer of modern weapons is more than a simple gesture of support.
"The security concerns we have are genuine," Mr. Chang said in an interview.
China is believed to be deploying an additional 50 missiles every year aimed at Taiwan's major population centers, airports and major industrial hubs.
The missile question was raised most recently in Washington earlier this month when Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, met with Chinese Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, the first high-level "strategic dialogue" with the Chinese military since the April 2001 aerial collision between a Chinese jet and U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft.
"On Taiwan, the U.S. reaffirmed our position," Mr. Feith told reporters. "Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, China did not renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan conflict."
That position also was reaffirmed in China's latest biannual defense report, in which it again refused to rule out the use of force. Titled "China's National Defense in 2002," it condemned independence forces on Taiwan and said Beijing "will not forswear the use of force."
The hardware being discussed by Washington and Taipei includes Orion P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, eight conventional submarines and four Kidd-class air-defense destroyers.
The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress in 1979, after Washington opened diplomatic relations with Beijing, commits the United States to protect Taiwan's interests.

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