Taiwan says seeks U.S. arms for strength in China talks

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan needs advanced defensive weaponry from the United States to give it strength in talks with political and military rival China, the island government said on Thursday following criticism from Beijing.

Taiwan estimates China is aiming 1,000 to 1,500 missiles at the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

“Taiwan’s military preparedness and requests for U.S. weapons give it more confidence and strength in the process of reconciling, negotiating and communicating with mainland China,” the Taiwan government said in a statement.

The two sides must “respect each other,” Liu Te-shun, vice chairman of the country’s policy making body, added at a news conference.

Beijing condemned a U.S. sale of Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan last week after Washington cleared a release of the high-end hardware as part of an arms package approved under former U.S. president George W. Bush in 2008.

China said this week it had successfully tested emerging military technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

Since taking office in May 2008, China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has eased tension with Beijing by brokering negotiations on landmark trade deals.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Jerry Norton