Nations condemn Chinese missile tests

March 8, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 a.m. EST (1650 GMT)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- International criticism mounted Friday against mainland China after it test-fired three ballistic missiles off Taiwan's coast.

The three Chinese ground-to-ground M-9 missiles that landed near two major Taiwanese ports are part of a weeklong missile testing program announced by the Chinese government on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Chinese acknowledged that the tests are designed to intimidate Taiwan as that country's first direct national presidential election approached.

The Chinese government contends that Taiwan is a renegade province of China, and it has accused Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui of supporting Taiwan's independence. Lee, the front-runner in the March 23 elections, has been walking fine line between Taiwanese who favor independence and those who favor reunification.

Campaigning in Taipei, Lee said that the testing was "just a show" and urged citizens not to worry.

The United States led the international criticism over the missile testing, with White House spokesman Mike McCurry calling China's actions "provocative and reckless." House Speaker Newt Gingrich also weighed in, saying that the missile tests were a "terrorist act."

State department spokesman Nicholas Burns warned China that there would be "consequences" if any missiles went astray.


U.S. National Security adviser Anthony Lake was scheduled to meet Friday with Liu Huaqui, the foreign affairs director of China's state council. The missile tests were to be a main topic in the discussions.

China responded angrily to the U.S. reaction, saying that the missile tests were not the business of other countries. (264K AIFF sound or 264K WAV sound)

"Actually it is China who should be protesting," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Shen Guofang, "because the question of Taiwan is entirely China's internal affair, in which no other country has the right to interfere."

Chinese foreign minister Quan Qichen said that Taiwan "should not panic" over the missile tests, but said that a "real disaster" was possible if Taiwan pursued independence from China.

Leaders in Japan and Hong Kong added their voices against the testing, however. A group of religious, civic and political leaders in Hong Kong urged peaceful reunification, saying that the missile tests had "frightened many people," and in Japan, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said the tests were "in an unfortunate direction."

The European Union also condemned the firing, saying that the tests "could lead to further tension in the region."

The statement from the EU's foreign ministry called on China to "refrain from activities which could have negative effects on the security of the entire region."

Taiwan's 400,000 member military has been on full alert since Tuesday, when China announced two target sites the for missile testing, which is to be concluded on March 15. Both sites are within 50 nautical miles of busy port cities.

Two of Friday's missiles struck about 48 miles west of Kaohsiung, and the third near Keelung off the northern coast. Kaohsiung and Keelung handle nearly 70 percent of Taiwan's port activity. The ports remained open.

Taiwan's Defense Minister, Chiang Chung-lin, threatened retaliation if China's missiles struck within Taiwan's territorial waters, although he stressed that such an action was "not our bottom line."

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