- 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
- 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
- "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.