China vows arms upgrade

Posted in China , Asia | 28-Dec-04 | Author: Chris Buckley| Source: International Herald Tribune

Report calls relations with Taiwan 'grim'

BEIJING The Chinese government says relations with Taiwan are "grim" and vows to accelerate military modernization, according to an annual defense policy report released Monday.

"The Taiwan authorities under Chen Shui-bian have recklessly challenged the status quo," said the Chinese Defense Ministry in its white paper for 2004, referring to the president of Taiwan, who is pushing for formal acceptance of Taiwan's separate status from mainland China.

"China is determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and security, no matter how the international situation may evolve, and what difficulties it may encounter," the report added.

It also warned that China faces growing "uncertainty, instability and insecurity," which it blamed on the United States' military presence.

It said the United States was "realigning and reinforcing its military presence in this region," and threatening stability across the Taiwan Strait by increasing arms sales to Taiwan.

Defense analysts said that nothing in the report was strikingly new, but that it indicated the Chinese government's desire to give its warnings teeth by accelerating military modernization.

"Basically, they're repeating what they've said before, but it shows they're determined to speed up development of advanced weapon systems," said Andrew Yang, a military expert at the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies.

Yang said the report indicated that China would also become more involved in regional military exercises.

But the report also hinted at one of the difficulties China faces during military modernization: the need to reduce its troop numbers so that more money can be spent on advanced weapons and on training.

It repeated a commitment made in September 2003 to cut troop numbers by 200,000 by the end of next year but offered no deeper cuts. Yang said the government was wary of making further cuts when unemployment is widespread and many decommissioned soldiers cannot find work.

The release of the white paper coincides with a proposed law about reunification that will enshrine China's demands that Taiwan accept being a part of China.