Agence France Press

China puts crushing Taiwan independence at core of new defence policy

Monday December 27, 2004

BEIJING, (AFP) - Crushing "the vicious rise" of Taiwan independence was put firmly at the core of a new national defence policy, the first prepared by President Hu Jintao since he became head of China's military.

The 85-page white paper outlined a list of security threats, including nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula and Japan's constitutional changes but its main thrust was on strained relations with Taiwan.

The document, the fifth on national defence since 1995, described Taiwan relations as "grim" and made clear any attempt at independence would be harshly dealt with.

"Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of Taiwan independence the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost," it said.

"The Taiwan authorities under (President) Chen Shui-bian have recklessly challenged the status quo ... and markedly escalated the Taiwan independence activities designed to split China."

The document said it was the "sacred responsibility" of the Chinese army to stop Taiwan independence forces from splitting the country.

It accused Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party of inciting anti-China sentiment and also slammed the United States for selling arms to the island, which China considers part of its territory.

"(The United States) continues to increase, quantitatively and qualitatively, its arms sales to Taiwan, sending a wrong signal to the Taiwan authorities," it said. "The US action does not serve a stable situation across the Taiwan Straits."

The policy paper came as China's legislature deliberated a proposed "anti-secession law" aimed at preventing Taiwan from declaring formal independence.

Beijing said hostilities could be ended if Taiwan accepted it was part of China and stopped its "separatist activities."

Taiwan was a Japanese colony until 1945, and was subsequently occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang -- the losing side of the Chinese civil war. It subsequently suffered some 40 years of Kuomintang martial law, but made a momentous transition to democracy in the early 1990s.

However, Beijing still sees the democratic island of 23 million as a part of Chinese territory. The Taiwanese, on the other hand, want to preserve their hard-won democracy and independence.

The document also stressed that China harboured no ambition to expand its territory and posed no threat to other countries. "China will never go for expansion nor will it ever seek hegemony," it said.

The document reiterated an earlier plan to downsize the People's Liberation Army by 200,000 troops to 2.3 million by the end of 2005 in an effort to streamline the force's structure.

It said defence expenditure increased to 211.7 billion yuan (25.6 billion dollars) in 2004 from 170.8 billion yuan in 2002 and 190.8 billion yuan in 2003.

Meanwhile, the document reiterated China's policy of not supporting, encouraging or assisting other countries to develop weapons of mass destruction and its opposition to their proliferation.

"The importance and urgency of providing security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states has become more prominent," it said. "China supports the negotiation and conclusion of an international legally binding instrument on this issue."

As well as Taiwan, the paper listed the impasse over North Korea (news - web sites)'s nuclear drive as a key major regional security worry.

"The foundation of the six-party talks is not solid enough as uncertain factors linger in the settlement of the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula," it said of the stalled negotiations that also include the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

It also sees Japan's proposed constitutional changes as a threat as they would allow the Japanese military to use force in international missions.

President Hu replaced retired Jiang Zemin as head of China's military in September.