Taipei: Taiwan said Tuesday that China had continued its military build-up against the island despite their warming ties, warning that the military balance had tipped in the mainland’s favour.
“Despite the easing of tensions across the Strait, China has not reduced its military deployment targeting Taiwan,” the defence ministry said in its annual report.
“China has continued its arms build-up to the point that it has tipped the military balance in the Taiwan Strait,” the report said, referring to China’s inventory of 1,500 ballistic and cruise missiles.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved significantly since the China-friendly politician Ma Ying-jeou became the island’s president last year, vowing to adopt a non-confrontational policy towards the mainland.
But despite the less-tense relationship, Taiwan continues to express concern over China’s military might, and especially its missiles.
“If necessary, they can be used to strike Taiwan in waves of precision missile attacks,” it said.
China’s air force also has more than 700 fighters based within 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) of Taiwan, according to the report.
It said some of the fighters have been equipped with airborne refueling facilities which can be used to extend their combat duration while attacking the island.
China’s navy has been boosted after it put into service new nuclear-powered attack submarines and major combat vehicles armed with medium-range ballistic missiles capable of striking movable targets at sea.
“The purpose is to deter or delay foreign carriers coming to the rescue of Taiwan should war break out in the Strait,” it said.
While the report did not identify this “foreign force,” the only nation likely to send carriers to Taiwan in a war scenario is the United States.
China lobbed ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan’s two major ports in 1996 in war games aimed to intimidate Lee Teng-hui, then the island’s president, to stop him seeking re-election.
The crisis ended only after the United States sent two battle carrier groups to waters near Taiwan in apparent warnings to Beijing against its any attempt to invade the island.
Backed up by its dynamic economic growth, China has been able to boost its military spending by double digits for 21 years in a row, according to the report.
“Its military strength has gone beyond its self-defence needs and sparked serious concerns from countries in the Asia-Pacific region,” the report said.
China’s military budget for 2009 came in at 480.7 billion yuan (70.4 billion US dollars), a rise of 14.9 percent from the previous year, the report said, citing official figures from Beijing.
China still regards Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification — by force if necessary — although the island has governed itself since it split from the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.