August 11, 2005

Taiwan highlights China threat in virtual war game

TAIPEI (Reuters) - After holding months of live-fire war
games to highlight a perceived growing military threat from
giant neighbor China, Taiwan's military gave its people a taste
of virtual war on Thursday.

Two computer games featuring missile strikes against the
world's tallest building in downtown Taipei and a naval
blockade around the island's major ports were on display at a
defense exhibition on Thursday, the latest in a string of
campaigns to promote a controversial $15 billion arms budget.

"Some say we are trying to scare our own people. In fact,
we just want them to know what will happen if we don't have the
weapons we need when a war breaks out," Defense Ministry
spokesman Liou Chih-chien said on the sidelines of the Taipei
Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition.

"Just imagine what will happen if the Taipei 101 is
bombed," Liou said, referring to the 101-storey skyscraper in
Taipei's prime financial district.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its own since the
end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has threatened force
if the island drags its feet on reunification. The United
States offered to sell Taiwan six batteries of Patriot Advanced
Capability (PAC-3) hit-to-kill missiles, 12 P-3C Orion
submarine-hunting aircraft and eight diesel-electric submarines
in 2001 in what would be the biggest arms package to the island
in more than a decade.

But opposition parties, which hold a slim majority in
parliament, have blocked the budget since June last year,
saying the weapons are overpriced.

The United States recognizes the mainland as China's sole
legitimate government -- the "one-China" policy -- but in a
deliberately ambiguous piece of foreign policy it is also
obliged by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

Liou said the defense ministry no longer insisted that
parliament must approve the entire arms package and that it did
not rule out including part of the spending in its regular

Parliament is in summer recess and reopens in September.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said earlier this month the
government should aim to raise the defense budget to account
for 3 percent of the island's gross domestic product by 2006 in
order to counter China's military expansion.

The Pentagon said in July that China's rapidly modernizing
military had put regional military balances at risk and could
pose a long-term threat to other countries.

Washington, Taiwan's biggest arms supplier, said China had
deployed 650 to 730 mobile short-range ballistic missiles and
375,000 ground forces opposite Taiwan, had more than 700
aircraft within range of the island and was modernizing its
longer-range ballistic missile force.