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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Troops sent to protect China dam
Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges dam is already proving controversial
China is reported to have sent heavily armed troops to protect its huge Three Gorges Dam against terrorist attack.

Military helicopters, patrol boats, armoured vehicles and bomb disposal robots have been deployed around the dam, the China Times said on Tuesday.

The newspaper made no mention of who might want to target the project.

But a US suggestion in June that Taiwan might target the dam to deter a Chinese invasion provoked an angry response from Beijing.

Chinese military officials said at the time that any attack on the dam would provoke a devastating response.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory, and has repeatedly threatened to invade if the island declares independence.


According to the China Times report, military police have been training a "pool of talented anti-terrorist professionals" to work at the dam and its massive hydroelectric project.

"The important anti-terrorism measures taken by the military police on the main bridges, dams and hydro-electric stations have basically been completed," the newspaper said.

China has huge hopes for the Three Gorges, the world's largest dam and flood control project, which Beijing hopes will help solve China's energy problems when it is completed in 2009.

But the 180bn Yuan ($22bn) project is also proving controversial, with some environmentalists doubting its ability to prevent flooding - a claim which again resurfaced during recent floods earlier this month, when the authorities were forced to close the dam to shipping.

This is not the first time the project has been singled out as a possible terrorist target.

In its annual statement to the US Congress, released in May, the Pentagon said that Taiwanese "proponents of strikes against the mainland apparently hope that merely presenting credible threats to China's urban population or high-value targets, such as the Three Gorges Dam, will deter Chinese military coercion."

In an angrily worded response, senior Chinese General Liu Yuan was quoted as saying that China would be "seriously on guard against threats from Taiwan independence terrorists".

"The Three Gorges Dam will not collapse and cannot be destroyed," he said at the time.

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