China rattles nuclear sabre over Taiwan

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The Independent Online
PEKING BROADCAST its neutron bomb capacity to the world yesterday in a move to scare recalcitrant Taiwan into submission and rebut US allegations that China stole American nuclear secrets.

While the revelation was not a surprise - nuclear experts believe China has had neutron bomb technology for more than a decade - the official Xinhua news agency carried a series of high-priority "flashes" on the issue, indicating Peking's determination to make Washington and Taipei sit up and notice.

"China had no other choice but to continue to carry out research and development of nuclear weapons technology, mastering in succession the neutron bomb design technology and the nuclear weapon miniaturisation technology," said a cabinet spokesman, Zhao Qizheng.

Mr Zhao's comments came at a news conference that was initially aimed at demolishing allegations that China stole US nuclear weapons and neutron bomb design secrets over the past two decades. After Taiwan's President, Lee Teng-hui, sent Peking into convulsions of rage on Saturday by hinting it might proclaim its official independence from China, the revelations also served to underline who has the military might in the area.

Neutron bombs are nuclear bombs with high levels of radiation and low levels of explosive power that cause huge human casualties but leave infrastructure largely in place.

Although China is already one of the world's five declared nuclear powers, it has never before admitted to having sophisticated neutron bomb design technology.

China's rapidly growing number of Internet chat-rooms saw an increase in traffic after the revelation, with most participants lauding its strength.

Taiwan lies off the coast of China and has been split from the mainland since 1949 when the defeated anti-Communists fled there after a bloody civil war. Over the past five decades, the two sides have co-existed in an uneasy peace.

But Peking has become increasingly alarmed at growing calls for independence on the island, especially at the latest abandonment of the "one China policy" and calls for state-to-state relations.

Peking combined its neutron bomb revelation with a front-page editorial in the official Liberation Army Daily that warned China had never renounced the use of force to recover the island. The Defence Minister, Chi Haotian, was quoted as saying that the army stood ready to safeguard China's territorial integrity and "smash any attempts to separate the country''.

On the issue of spying, Peking used the neutron bomb revelations to rebut allegations in the Cox report. Released on 25 May by a special panel chaired by a US representative, Christopher Cox, the report said that Peking had acquired American secrets about seven nuclear weapons and the neutron bomb through 20 years of espionage. It also said China tested a neutron bomb in 1988.

Peking's 80-page report,Facts Speak Louder Than Words and Lies Will Collapse By Themselves - Further Refutation of the Cox Report, said China conducted its first nuclear test in October 1964 and its first hydrogen bomb test in June 1967 and made all other progress by itself.

Mr Zhao characterised the findings of the Cox report as "utterly absurd,'' saying the implication was that the Chinese would not have been able to develop advanced technology without resorting to theft.

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