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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. calls Taiwanese missiles destabilizing, offers its own

RIA Novosti

04/05/2007 15:01 HONG KONG, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. is trying to discourage Taiwan from acquiring missile technology capable of threatening mainland China, the Taiwanese media said Friday.

Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. representative office on the breakaway island, said the U.S. has urged Taiwan to acquire defensive, not offensive, weapons, fearing that this would encourage mainland China to invade Taiwan.

Young's claim that a medium-range Taiwanese missile would be a "destabilizing factor" comes after the Republic of China's Defense Minister Lee Jye claimed Taiwan was developing its own missiles with a range beyond the width of the Taiwan Straight (maximum 180 km) that separates it from mainland China.

Young also expressed U.S. frustration at the fact that the Taiwanese parliament has been obstructing an $18 billion purchase of U.S. weapons for the sixth year in a row, the opposition complaining that the some of the proposed weapons were inappropriate and over priced.

Since 1949, the Taiwan-based democratic Republic of China has claimed independence from the communist mainland, supported by security guarantees from, though not formal diplomatic relations with, the U.S. The People's Republic of China officially considers Taiwan its province and has warned that it would use force if Taiwan were to formally proclaim independence.

Of the little that is known about Taiwan's missile capabilities, it is certain that currently Taiwan operates only anti-ship missiles. It is believed it also has its own unsophisticated 120-km surface-to-surface missiles. The development of longer-range missiles in the 1990s was dropped for technical reasons.

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