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Professor Yahuda of the London School of Economics
"This is a time of great sensitivity and delicacy"
 real 56k

James Lilley, former US Ambassador to Beijing
"Our stronger military budget requires them to strengthen their military budget - I think that's their major thrust"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"China said it will boost defence spending by almost 18% this year"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 16:18 GMT
China warns Bush over Taiwan
Chinese soldiers on guard
More money and better weapons for China's military
China has issued a stern warning to the United States over Taiwan after announcing its biggest increase in military spending for more than a decade.

It warned Washington not to go ahead with the sale of sophisticated destroyers and missiles to Taiwan, saying it would cause "serious dangers".

US destroyer
Taiwan wants to buy US destroyers
"The US side should come to the recognition of the serious dangers involved. It should rein in its wild horse riding on the side of the precipice," Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said at a press conference.

The warning came after Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng told parliament the military budget would rise this year by 17.7% to about $17bn.

He said the increase, which is set to continue for the next five years, would go towards higher pay and new equipment.


China's...devotion to military build-up would be a serious concern

Taiwan defence ministry spokesman
Taiwan immediately warned that the boost in spending was a threat to the island and neighbouring countries.

However, China's foreign minister denied the spending increase was directed at Taiwan.

"You shouldn't artificially connect China's natural increase in military spending and the Taiwan question," Mr Tang said.

Destroyers

Washington is due to decide in April what new weapons to sell to Taiwan.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act the US is required to make available sufficient arms to allow the island to defend itself.

National People's Congress
Some 3,000 delegates are attending the NPC
Taiwan is understood to want to purchase Aegis destroyers and PAC-3 anti-missile systems, a follow-on of the Patriot missile used in the 1991 Gulf War.

But the Chinese foreign minister said such sales would send "a very wrong signal to the Taiwan authorities".

It would encourage the "small number" of people on Taiwan in favour of independence and feed their "arrogance", Mr Tang added.

China regards Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949, as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited by force if necessary.

Chen Shui-bian
President Chen's election may have prompted China to boost spending
The island's President Chen Shui-bian, who was elected last year, was a firm supporter of Taiwanese independence in the past, but China has threatened invasion should Taiwan move in that direction.

George W Bush's new administration has already made it clear that unlike the Clinton administration they do not regard China as a "strategic partner".

The Republicans, who now control both houses of the Congress and the White House, have traditionally been more pro-Taiwan than the Democrats.

New tactics

Mr Xiang announced the increase in military spending on the second day of the annual session of the National People's Congress.

Western analysts say it indicates a significant change in Chinese strategic thinking after Nato's intervention in Kosovo, which circumvented the United Nations Security Council, where China has a veto.

Mr Xiang said the extra spending was needed to "adapt to drastic changes in the military situation of the world and prepare for defence and combat given the conditions of modern technology, especially high technology".

The Chinese military has been reduced from about 4.2 million personnel to about 2.5 million over the last two decades.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's relations with China
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China warns Bush over Taiwan
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Chinese agriculture's new revolution
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06 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Beijing fetes country cousins
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