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Introduction

Taiwan has one of Asia's few functioning democracies and one of its strongest economies. But for the island's 23 million people, the future is overshadowed by an unresolved dispute with China.

China sees the island as a breakaway province which should be reunified, by force if necessary. Hundreds of Chinese missiles now aim across the Taiwan Strait to bring home the point.

Both sides are used to dealing with this fraught relationship, and closer economic ties may eventually make conflict less likely. But until that happens, any flare-up over Taiwan would have much wider implications. Most importantly, it could quickly suck the US into conflict with China, because of US security assurances to Taiwan.

The BBC News website looks at the issues behind what some analysts see as one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints. Click on the links above to find out more.

Defences on the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, close to China
Taiwan has grown used to the threat of Chinese attack

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