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Chen: Don’t Delay Taiwan Arms

March 31, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Washington should not delay a decision expected this month about selling weapons to Taiwan, the president-elect said today, saying the armaments ``are not for war, but for peace.″

The request for arms, an annual process, could further increase tensions with China. Beijing fiercely protests arms sales between Taiwan and the United States, one of the only nations willing to risk China’s’s ire by selling the island defensive weapons.

Chen Shui-bian said the request for the arms was made long before he was elected and was a routine procedure that should not be delayed.

``The weapons are needed for Taiwan’s security and peace. They are not for war, but for peace,″ Chen said.

Chen also said that he would not visit the United States before he takes office in May, even if he got a rare invitation from President Clinton.

``Our substantial relations with America will improve and upgrade,″ Chen said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``Whether I personally can visit the United States before my inauguration, in fact, is not that important.″

Before he was elected two weeks ago, China’s leaders made it clear that Chen was their least favorite candidate. Beijing distrusts the former Taipei mayor because he was once a vocal supporter of Taiwan independence.

China and Taiwan split when the communists took over the mainland in 1949, and reunifying the two sides is still Beijing’s sacred goal. China has threatened to attack Taiwan if it tries to break away permanently or indefinitely rebuffs reunification talks.

Since his upset victory, Chen has been careful not to rile Beijing, which has said it is watching him closely.

He has expressed his goodwill by offering to travel to China and discuss any topic, and he has invited Chinese leaders to attend his inauguration.

Later this month, Washington is expected to make its annual decision about what armaments Taiwan will be allowed to purchase.

Analysts and lawmakers have said Taipei’s wish list includes upgraded Patriot missiles, advanced radar systems and guided-missile destroyers equipped with the sophisticated AEGIS battle management system.

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