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Defense minister warned crush taiwan independence army day

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On Army Day, China Says Can Crush Taiwan Independence
Sun Aug 1, 2004 07:12 AM ET

By Scott Hillis
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's defense minister marked Army Day Sunday by pledging the 2.5 million-strong military could crush any attempt at independence by Taiwan, echoing a tough message from his president to President Bush.

President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao issued a blunt warning to Bush Friday not to press ahead with arms sales to the democratically ruled island that Beijing claims as a rebel province -- to be recovered by force if necessary.

Speaking Saturday at ceremonies to mark the Aug. 1 Army Day, anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Cao said both peace and stability were impossible if Taiwan pursued independence.

"If the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces obstinately persist in their course, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has the determination and ability to resolutely smash any 'Taiwan independence' separatist plot," the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, quoted Cao as saying.

Hu took a rare initiative to stress the importance of the Taiwan issue by calling Bush to voice Beijing's opposition to sales of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan, which is considering spending $18 billion on Patriot anti-missile systems, submarines and anti-submarine aircraft.

Defense Minister Cao said China hoped to achieve peaceful reunification with Taiwan, which Beijing has viewed as a renegade province since Nationalist forces fled there in 1949 at the end of the civil war on the mainland.

"We absolutely will not allow any person, using any means, to split Taiwan from the motherland," Cao said. "There is nothing more important than the territorial integrity of the motherland, and the will of 1.3 billion Chinese people cannot be spurned."


The arms issue has taken center stage since Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian took part in a rare submarine dive last week to boost military morale just days after arch-rival China completed a mock invasion of the island and to assure Washington of Taiwan's commitment to buying U.S. weaponry.

The drill, following China's war games off the island, was intended to boost public support for the arms deal that includes eight diesel-engine submarines, analysts said.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but U.S. law requires it to defend the island.

In meetings this month with U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Chinese officials focused on Taiwan, and days later China voiced concern that U.S. support for Taiwan was undermining the "one-China" policy.

Beijing sees Chen's goal of adopting a new constitution for Taiwan by 2008 as a move toward a declaration of independence and has been preparing for a possible military showdown.

Cao renewed calls for modernizing China's huge military, which for decades relied on sheer manpower over technology.

In recent years, China's military has been trying to become leaner and meaner by reducing troop numbers and buying advanced weapons such as submarines and fighter jets from Russia.

China has beefed up its missile forces, in large part in case of war with Taiwan. Military experts estimate China has amassed about 500 missiles along its eastern coast opposite Taiwan.

In an omission that could signify internal Chinese political disharmony, Army Day celebrations barely mentioned Central Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin, Hu's predecessor and rival. Experts say Jiang is intent on staying on as chairman of the influential military commission for as long as he can.

However, the People's Liberation Army Daily published a front-page commentary saying it was crucial for the military to study Jiang's theories and to resist attempts to make the military independent of politics.

"We should ... firmly resist the influence of the erroneous ideas of 'separating the army from the party and politics' or 'nationalizing the army'," the newspaper said in a sign of a bid by Jiang's to assert his influence.

This month, Hu edged away from a practice of deferring to Jiang on military issues and voiced his say, speaking of coordinating defense building with economic construction.

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