12/20/2004, 00.00
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US military staff to be stationed in Taipei after 25 years

Taiwan wants to boost defence capabilities; China is ready to adopt anti-secession law.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The US is planning to station military personnel in Taiwan for the first time since 1979, this according to Jane's Defence Weekly.  If confirmed, this would represent a major shift in US policy which hitherto assigned only civilian and not active-duty military defence staff to the island. It is likely to contribute to stronger US-Taiwanese military ties in a more anti-Chinese perspective.

According to the magazine, the change reflects "growing concern in Washington over China's military ambitions in the region" and should become effective by mid-2005 when military officers are expected to take up their posts at the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US diplomatic mission in Taipei.

Since formal diplomatic relations between the US and Taiwan were broken in 1979, military issues have been handled by security and intelligence agencies within the US Department of Defence.

According to Jane's report, US military personnel will not wear uniforms and will be stationed on a three-year contract basis (civilian staff were stationed on a two-year contract basis).

US Congress in 2002 passed a bill allowing for the posting of military staff in Taiwan if it was deemed to be "in the national interest of the United States."

The decision is likely to upset China and increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait already poor because of Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence moves, which include a proposal to purchase US weapons for a total of NT$ 610.8 billion (US$ 18.23 billion).

The Kuomintang's victory in the December 11 Taiwanese parliamentary elections has not softened China's posture vis-à-vis Taiwan. Chinese authorities have in fact announced that an anti-secession bill would go to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for discussion on December 25-29.

For some analysts, the bill is designed to counter moves by Taiwan's President Chen to submit a new constitution for popular approval in 2006 and declare independence in 2008. 

Although there are no details, the law could give China the legal bases for military intervention against the island should it declare independence. (MA)

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