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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Warns Taipei, Plans Missile Tests

COMBINED REPORTS


BEIJING -- China will start a week of missile tests in waters off Taiwan on Friday as part of a campaign to intimidate the island and warn against moves for independence.


The missile tests, announced Tuesday, were long expected. China fired missiles last summer near Taiwan and recently has reportedly mobilized 150,000 troops on its southeastern coast for large-scale war games expected before Taiwan's March 23 presidential election.


Chinese Premier Li Peng warned Taiwan not to seek independence or foreign backing in a speech given three hours after the state-run Xinhua News Agency announced the missile tests.


China "would never allow the secession of Taiwan from the motherland," Li said in opening the national legislature's annual session. China wants peaceful reunification but does not rule out force.


Taiwan Premier Lien Chan accused China of trying to disrupt the island's presidential election and urged it to "immediately call off this provocative act or be held responsible for all its aftermath."


Xinhua said the tests, ostensibly for training, will involve surface-to-surface missiles and occur between March 8 and 15 in two areas. It asked foreign ships and aircraft to stay clear of the areas.


According to coordinates given by the news agency, one site lies northeast of Taiwan, about 36 kilometers from Keelung port; the other is 54 kilometers west of the southern port of Kaohsiung. At this distance, the tests will brush closer to Taiwan than previous such exercises; a misfired or faulty rocket could hit the densely populated main island.


In a test last July, China fired six unarmed M-9 missiles from the mainland into the sea about 150 kilometers north of Taiwan. Taiwan military analysts said one of the missiles missed its target by more than 200 nautical miles.


The two sea areas to be targeted in the new tests are near Taiwan's two main ports; the tests could halt all shipping to the ports and disrupt some air traffic.


"This is like a guided-missile blockade," said Yang Chih-heng, military research fellow at the independent Institute for National Policy Research. "It means they could blockade Keelung and Kaohsiung harbors." ()