Ominous sounds from the China Sea.
China has blanketed its territory with air defense radar that almost matches the performance of similar networks in developed countries, state media reported Wednesday, as its rival Taiwan held its first National Day military parade in 16 years.
A senior officer from Chinese Air Force headquarters, Fang Lei, said a seamless network of all-weather air defense radars had been installed to cover all Chinese airspace, according to a report on the Web site of the official military newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily. The network's detection and surveillance capability was "very close" to those deployed in developed countries and could also assist Chinese forces in offensive operations, the report quoted Fang as saying.
The development of a high-performance air defense system to complement China's increasingly potent force of surface-to-air missiles and jet fighter interceptors has been a top priority for the People's Liberation Army, military experts say.
Senior Taiwanese and U.S. military officers have acknowledged the improvement in Chinese air defenses as a significant indication of the country's rapid military modernization.
This system is a direct challenge for self-governing Taiwan as it seeks to counter the mainland's growing military power. China regards the democratic island as part of its territory and has threatened to use force under a range of circumstances, including a formal declaration of independence by the government in Taipei.
In a televised National Day speech Wednesday, Taiwan's pro-independence president, Chen Shui-bian, called on the international community to demand that China withdraw its missiles aimed at the island and halt threatening military exercises.
He also called on China to follow Taiwan's example and adopt democracy.
"We believe that only through China's democratic awakening can there be lasting peace in the world," he said.
Tensions between the two sides have been mounting over the determination of Chen and his governing Democratic Progressive Party to press ahead with a public referendum on the island's bid to enter the United Nations under the name of Taiwan rather than its official title, the Republic of China.
Senior Chinese officials have condemned the referendum as a step toward independence and warned of dangerous consequences for Taiwan.
Chen's decision to revive the traditional military parade, on the day that commemorates the 1911 overthrow of China's last imperial dynasty, was an attempt to draw attention to the threat facing Taiwan, analysts said.
It was also aimed at galvanizing support for the ruling party ahead of legislative and presidential elections next year.
[..]In 1991, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party halted the parades in an effort to placate Beijing.
As part of its military response to China's buildup, Taiwan has developed a long-range, land-attack cruise missile with sufficient range to strike targets as far away as Shanghai.
There had been speculation that this missile would be paraded Wednesday alongside Taiwan's other advanced hardware, but officials in Taipei said early this week that the weapon was still under development and would not go on display.
China has yet to react to Taiwan's plan, but the Bush administration has said it is opposed to offensive missiles on either side of the Taiwan Strait.
Most analysts expect Taiwan to continue development of the missile, which would have a payload of 400 kilograms, or 882 pounds, and a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles, according to defense analysts and reports in military journals.
Up to 500 of the missiles could be deployed on mobile launchers on Taiwan and on the island's warships, analysts said.
China had about 900 short-range ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan up to the end of last year, according to the Pentagon's annual report on China's military published in May.
"Defense means we should be able to strike back, at least taking out their military targets to prevent second or third wave attacks at least," said Lai I-chung, director of the Democratic Progressive Party's Department of International Affairs. "Missiles are relatively easy and cheap and will help us meet this need."
Lai added that Washington had been unable to persuade China to abandon its military buildup.
Until the early 1990s, when China's military hardware was largely obsolete by Western standards, Taiwan's more advanced strike aircraft could be expected to carry out that role.
But analysts in Taiwan say that the island's U.S.- and French-made strike aircraft could no longer be assured of penetrating China's air defenses.
In addition to sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, the Chinese Air Force now has hundreds of advanced Russian-designed fighters.
And earlier this year, China unveiled a locally developed fighter that compares favorably with its current Western counterparts, according to military specialists.
As the military balance shifted in China's favor, it was difficult for people in Taiwan to accept the Bush administration's opposition to the new missile, he said. Senior defense officials in Taiwan have argued for decades that the island needs to have the capability to strike targets in China.
China's arms buildup could also pose challenges to the United States if it is drawn into a conflict with Beijing over Taiwan. The commander of American forces in Japan, Lieutenant General Bruce Wright, told The Associated Press earlier this month that China's air defenses were now almost impenetrable to the U.S. F-15 and F-16 aircraft stationed in Asia.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.