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Monday, October 16, 2006

US 'worried about Taiwan missiles'

Taipei (dpa) - The United States has privately expressed concern about Taiwan's deployment of missiles that can hit China from an offshore island, a newspaper reported Monday.

The United Daily News (UDN), quoting an unnamed Taiwan Defence Ministry source, said that US military officials made a secret visit in August to Taiwan after learning that Taipei had deployed the missiles on an offshore island missiles.

"US military officials met with Taiwan's defence and national security officials and visited the military Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology," UDN quoted the source as saying. "They wanted to know the purpose and the functions of the missiles and the guidelines for using them."

UDN said the "special missiles" - with a range of 600 to 1,000 kilometres - can hit Shanghai or Hong Kong, and Taiwan is seeking to extend their range to 2,000 kilometres, which could reach China's capital, Beijing.

UDN said the "special missiles" could be Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missiles. Taiwan reportedly was secretly developing the HF-2E missiles to boost is defences against China but was forced by the US to abandon the project in 1981 because Washington feared it could tip the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan and China have been split since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Since then, China has viewed Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to recover Taiwan by force if Taipei seeks independence.

The US cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan to recognize China in 1979 but signed the Taiwan Relations Act, pledging to maintain unofficial ties with Taipei and to continue to supply defensive arms to Taipei.

To avoid military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, the US has asked Beijing and Taipei to resolve their differences through peaceful means and to refrain from unilaterally changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
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