|President Ma Ying-jeou Wednesday said Taiwan would not shrink from a military showdown as China reportedly deployed new ballistic missiles targeting the island despite improving ties.
Ties have begun warming since China-friendly Ma took office in May, pledging to improve relations with the island's giant and booming neighbor, with direct charter flights due to begin this week.
But despite the thaw, the Taipei-based China Times reported that the People's Liberation Army has built a new ballistic missile base on China's southeastern coast opposite Taiwan and replaced missiles already deployed with improved versions.
"Maybe some of you may feel confused whether China is a friend or foe," Ma said while addressing hundreds of military cadets during a commencement ceremony in southern Kaohsiung county.
"Don't get confused. All you have to do is to step up your combat readiness as it is the only way to deter war," said Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party.
"While Taiwan would never seek a military showdown, we will by no means avoid a war nor be afraid of taking it on" if necessary, he said, mindful of China's repeated threats to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence.
The China Times said the PLA had once "pulled out" its Russia-made S-300 air- defense missiles from several bases along its southeast coast.
However, it said, the PLA lately had rearmed the bases with the improved version of missiles, which place Taiwanese air force bases within striking range.
Defense authorities had previously said China had targeted the island with more than 1,000 short-range ballistic and cruise missiles.
Taiwan's defense ministry declined to comment on the report.