Taiwan flexes military might, sounds off vs China

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TAIPEI, Oct 10 (Reuters) Taiwan rolled out its top weaponry for a National Day parade for the first time in 16 years a move aimed at antagonising China and boosting nationalist fervour at home ahead of tough elections.

Columns of soldiers marched in lock-step before gathered officials, including President Chen Shui-bian, who used the occasion to sound off against China hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics, as police kept small bands of protesters at bay.

Launchers for local and US-supplied Patriot anti-missile systems rumbled past the Presidential Office, as US-made F-16 fighter jets and attack helicopters roared over the capital.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its own since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the democratic island back under its rule, by force if necessary.

Taiwan, which counts the United States as its biggest ally, says China has aimed around 1,000 missiles at the island.

''As president, I want to ease China's five pressure points, which are belittlement, marginalisation, localisation, getting rid of our government and getting rid of our sovereignty,'' Chen said in a televised speech.

''Beijing is using 'One World One Dream' as a 2008 Olympics slogan,'' Chen said. ''The international community should have the moral courage to demand of China 'One World One Standard'.

We can't have two standards for the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights.'' China holds its National Day on October 1, the date in 1949 Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China. Taiwan marks October 10, the double tenth, which celebrates an uprising in 1911 that led to the collapse of China's last dynasty.

Analysts say Chen authorised the parade to stir up patriotism as his Democratic Progressive Party campaigns ahead of tight legislative and presidential elections next year on a platform of national identity separate from China.

''The ruling party relies heavily on fundamentalist voters, and this kind of nationalistic show of force and determination will certainly raise the voting rate of the fundamentalists,'' said former deputy defence minister Lin Chong-pin.

China would take note of Wednesday's military display but may not react because ''there are already too many provocations,'' said Xu Bodong, a Taiwan researcher at Beijing Union University.

Taiwan's military currently procures only around 30 per cent of its equipment domestically, with the remainder sourced largely from the United States.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, recognising ''one China'', but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island, recognised by just a handful of countries around the world, defend itself.

REUTERS SZ RAI0920

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