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China could invade by 2020, Taiwan's military says

If China's two-decade-long arms buildup continues at current rates, the mainland will be able "to take Taiwan by force before the end of 2020" despite any moves by Taiwanese allies such as the US to repel an invasion, Taiwan's military said Tuesday.


If China's 20-year-long military buildup continues at current rates, the mainland will be capable of invading Taiwan by 2020 despite any moves by Taiwanese allies to repel an incursion, a Taiwanese military report said Tuesday.

"With the continued arms buildup, the Chinese communists will be able to take Taiwan by force before the end of 2020," the report said.

China’s annual military spending has grown by double-digit rates on average for the past 20 years or so, according to the 2013 National Defence Report. The study added that China's capacity for weapons research and manufacturing had also greatly increased and had come to pose “a grave threat to Taiwan".

China produces much of its military hardware itself and purchases most of the rest from Russia, the report said. Among the elements of Beijing’s current arsenal are nuclear and conventional submarines, strategic bombers, stealth fighters, and ballistic and air defence missiles.

US options limited

The report said that recent attempts by Washington to shift its foreign policy focus toward Asia, including longtime allies such as Taiwan, had been "stifled" due to US budget constraints, even while China's capacity for deterring a foreign intervention was rising steadily.

The United States has long been viewed as Taiwan’s main military ally, serving as a bulwark against China's ambitions on the island nation. Two US aircraft carrier battle groups deployed near Taiwan in 1996 after China fired missiles into the sea in a bid to deter the population from voting for former president Lee Teng-hui in Taiwan's first direct presidential election.

Relations between the two nations have often been fraught since Taiwan split from China in 1949 following a civil war. But ties have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang was elected in March 2008 on a platform of promoting trade and tourism links with the mainland. He was re-elected in January 2012 for a final four-year term.

Taiwan cuts military spending

The new report said that China's People's Liberation Army has a total strength of 2.27 million troops, of which the army accounts for 1.25 million. Some one-third of its army is deployed directly opposite Taiwan and military analysts say China has at least 1,600 ballistic missiles targeting the island.

Despite the continuing military threat from China, Taiwan has cut its own defence spending, with the number of troops due to be reduced to 215,000 next year from 240,000 today.

Beijing still refuses to renounce the possible use of force should the island officially declare independence, although Taiwan has effectively ruled itself for more than 60 years.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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