Taiwan Plans Own
Missile Shield - Politician
Calls For Nukes As Well

TAIPEI (Agence France Presse) - Taiwan's Defense Minister Tang Fei said Monday Taipei planned to build a low-altitude missile shield to counter any threat from China's missile program.
Tang said the defense system would come under a "national missile defense" project, which he said had been mistaken as being part of the American-led Theatre Missile Defense (TMD).
"Many said we want to join the TMD. No, we're not going to join it," Tang said in an interview with state television. "We want to set up our own."
Tang added the system would target China's ballistic and other missiles and any attacks launched by the mainland's military aircraft.
The military's weapons research unit, the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, would play a key role in the project, he said, although some weapons and equipment would also be imported.
Establishing such a shield could take 10 years and cost Taiwan up to 300 billion Taiwan dollars ($9.38 billion), he said.
"Because of their accuracy, cruise missiles of the Chinese communists could pose an even greater threat to Taiwan than did the ongoing ballistic missiles," he warned.
Beijing is reported to be developing cruise-type missiles, similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, but Tang said it might be some time before they were in service.
The People's Liberation Army lobbed ballistic missiles into the shipping lanes off Taiwan in mid-1996 to intimidate the island's first direct presidential elections.
The United States and Japan agreed last week to start research on a multibillion dollar missile umbrella.
China has been expressing opposition to the project for several months. The shield would take in Japan, and China suspects it will also include Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's defeated forces fled to the island to set up a non-communist enclave.
Last week Taiwan's cabinet approved a draft report making clear it wants a missile defense system "in order to cope with the missile threat of the Chinese communists".
It called for the swift establishment of an early warning system, which would give the island more time to prepare for any mainland attack as well as the gradual setting up of "a comprehensive missile defense system".
The report, which will be formally made public when parliament convenes on September 17, came a day after President Lee Teng-hui reportedly gave his backing to Taiwan's participation in the U.S.-Japan TMD scheme.
But the U.S. State Department has said it was unaware of Lee's official interest.
TAIPEI (Reuters) The presidential candidate for a small pro-independence party said on Sunday Taiwan should develop nuclear weapons to counter China.
The Taiwan Independence Party, which wants to declare a formal break from the mainland and form an independent Republic of Taiwan, nominated its chairman Cheng Pang-cheng to run for the March 2000 presidential election.
"Aside from strengthening people's readiness for war, Taiwan has no other option but to develop nuclear weapons in order to ensure national independence and security," Cheng said in his acceptance speech.
Taiwan's government has repeatedly said it would not develop nuclear weapons.
Under Taiwan law, all candidates must have 250,000 signatures of support before they can stand in presidential elections. Analysts said it was not certain whether Cheng's small party could garner these endorsements.