Taiwan Challenges China
Again - Wants US Missile
Defense System NOW
TAIPEI (Agence France Presse) - Taiwan took another crucial step Thursday to joining a U.S. missile shield as President Lee Teng-hui again challenged China by reaffirming the island's claim to statehood.
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 a swift establishment of an early warning system, which would give the island more time to prepare for any mainland attack as well as a 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 Lee gave his backing to Taiwan's participation in the U.S. scheme.
But the U.S. State Department said Wednesday it was unaware of Lee's official interest.
"I'm not aware of any formal decision that has been transmitted about their (Taiwan) willingness to or desire to move forward on that," State Department spokesman James Rubin said.
"I know that we do consult with them regularly through defense channels.
"If they have a new position, I would expect them to take that forward in their consultations."
Beijing was incensed after Lee last month declared that Taipei wants a "special state-to-state relationship" with Beijing.
The Chinese leaders, who regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, view Taiwan's statehood claim as a shift from the "One China policy" -- accepted by Beijing, Taipei and Washington -- which has kept an unsteady peace in the region for nearly five decades.
China on Thursday kept up pressure on Taiwan, warning the United States that it was fully prepared to launch an attack on the island, regardless of cost.
Despite the warning, Lee said Thursday: "What is the goal of our country? On this critical moment, I stepped out to speak, letting the voice of the general public be known to the world.
"For the dignity of the country, you should feel pleased I present reality in a straightforward manner," Lee said on a visit outside Taipei.
He had repeatedly assured Washington that his statehood claim was not aimed to press for independence but to seek parity in any reunification talks with Beijing.
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.
Beijing views the island as a renegade province.