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Terrorism & Security

As Chinese President Hu traveled to Washington, Taiwan tested missiles

The test, which revealed problems with several missiles, is considered a warning to China and a signal to the US that Taiwan still needs military assistance.

By Nissa RheeStaff writer / January 20, 2011

President Barack Obama welcomes China's President Hu Jintao during a state arrival on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

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Seoul, South Korea

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he is not satisfied with the results of a live fire missile test that took place Tuesday. The timing of the drills, which coincided with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington, is seen as a message to the United States that the island still needs help defending itself against China.

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In what was the first missile test held before the press in more than a decade, six of the 19 air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles either failed to launch or missed their target. According to the Associated Press, one missile, an RIM-7M Sparrow, “cascaded harmlessly into the South China Sea less than 30 seconds after launch.”

Analysts have raised questions about the timing and publicity of the missile tests. The New York Times reports that those familiar with the situation in Taiwan considered it coincidental that the test occurred immediately before President Hu and President Obama's meeting in Washington. Government officials told the Times that the test was planned before Hu’s trip was announced.

Yet, a Taiwanese defense official told the BBC said that the tests were meant to remind the US that despite Taiwan’s growing economic ties with Beijing, it still needed defense support from Washington – and to warn China against any aggression. He said that Taiwan was developing its own advanced missiles, which would be able to reach military bases and airports on China's east coast. However, the island depends on the US for advanced weapons.

But while Taiwan is hoping the US will help Taiwan close its defense gap with China, the US needs China's help on a number of issues, including North Korea.

According to AP, President Ma has been criticized in Taiwan for prioritizing reconciliation with the mainland over national defense and for focusing funds more on disaster preparation and relief and less on defense. His attendance at the drill was seen as an "about face," according to the Times.

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