Taipei: Taiwan Wednesday defended its latest procurement of US weapons, saying the missiles would give the island more confidence in pushing for rapprochement talks with China.

The Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s decision-making body on its policy with China, also called on Beijing to dismantle the more than 1,000 missiles aimed at the island.

“The arms build-up is necessary for our national defence,” the council said in a statement. “Furthermore, it would make Taiwan have more confidence in pursuing negotiations and exchanges with the Chinese mainland.”

The council was reacting to remarks earlier in the day by a Taiwan affairs official in Beijing, who in a press conference reiterated China’s opposition to any arms sales to the island.

After they split 60 years ago at the end of a civil war, Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

The US Defence Department announced last week that it had approved the sale of Patriot missile equipment to Taiwan as part of a package approved by Congress more than a year ago.

The deal sparked strong protests from Beijing, which warned it would violate its security and undermine trust between the US and Chinese militaries.

“Both sides should respect each other,” the council’s statement Wednesday said of Taiwan-China ties.

“It must make sure that neither one should feel it has been threatened by force from the other side, or it would harm the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”

Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang was elected in March 2008 on a platform to boost trade with the mainland and to allow in more Chinese tourists.

Even so, Taiwan remains wary of China’s objectives, often citing the missiles aimed at the island.

The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons of a defensive nature, under the Taiwan Relations Act.

The United States is the leading arms supplier to self-ruled Taiwan, even though Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.