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China Denounces US Missile Report - 2003-08-01

Beijing is denouncing a Pentagon report that says China is pointing more missiles at rival Taiwan in case of a future conflict. Chinese officials call the report an excuse for the United States sell more weapons to Taiwan.

China's Foreign Ministry says Wednesday's report from the Pentagon to the U.S. Congress is an attempt to manipulate public opinion in support of American weapons sales to Taiwan.

In a statement read by a Foreign Ministry official, China says it "strongly resents" the report. It also asserts that China has the sovereign right to build whatever weapons it needs and put them where ever it wants on its own territory.

The Pentagon report says Beijing is spending more on its military than it admits publicly, and is greatly increasing the rate at which it is building missiles that can reach Taiwan.

China is believed to have about 450 ballistic missiles aimed at the island. The Pentagon says China is adding about 75 new ones per year instead of the rate of 50 per year as previously thought.

China did not comment on the specific numbers cited by the Pentagon.

Strategic studies expert Philip Yang of National Taiwan University says the short-range ballistic missiles are a crucial part of China's Peoples' Liberation Army arsenal.

"On the PLA [China's People's Liberation Army] side they realize the missile deployment is the only way, the most effective way to impose military threat across the Taiwan Straits," he said.

Professor Yang says in spite of the report, there are no unusual tensions in the cross-straits relationship right now.

Washington sells Taiwan enough advanced weapons to protect itself from military threats from the communist Mainland. The United States is committed to help defend Taiwan against unprovoked Chinese attack, but says it wants the two sides to find a peaceful political solution to their differences. Washington has also said for years that it opposes outright independence for Taiwan.

Taiwan split from China politically amid civil war more than half a century ago and has been ruled separately since.

China says Taiwan must be returned to central government rule, peacefully if possible, but by military force if necessary.