Pushing to clinch billions of dollars in high-profile arms sales, the Bush administration has urged Taiwan to step up its defence spending rather than rely on the US if the mainland tries to force unification. At issue, among other things, are sales of destroyers, submarines and antimissile systems offered by President George W. Bush two years ago but stalled by Taiwan's economic problems as well as strict legislation, inter-service rivalry and defence ministry reforms. 'We urge Taiwan to take the steps needed to acquire defensive weapons and systems sufficient to address the ever-increasing threat posed by the People's Republic,' Randall Schriver, the State Department's top official on China, told a privately sponsored US-Taiwan defence industry conference in San Antonio, Texas, last week. China was adding at least 75 ballistic missiles a year to its arsenal, and was likely to have 600 pointed at Taiwan by 2005, the world's 'most daunting conventional missile threat', the Pentagon's Taiwan desk officer, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stokes, told the session. At least 450 DF-15 and DF-11 missiles were currently fielded opposite Taiwan, he said. The Pentagon's top policymaker for the region, Richard Lawless, said the mainland might be able to keep the US military at bay in a crunch - an apparent reference to holding off aircraft carriers like the two sent in 1996 by former president Bill Clinton in a show of support for the island after China fired missiles near its ports ahead of its first direct presidential election. 'It is believed that surprise and speed will be used to make any potential US assistance to Taiwan - in an unprovoked attack - ineffective,' said Mr Lawless, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asian and Pacific affairs. To counter China's reported ballistic missile buildup, the Pentagon has called on Taiwan to acquire as a top priority the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) antimissile system built by Lockheed Martin, the No. 1 US military contractor. US weapons makers have been frustrated by Taiwan's delay in wrapping up billions of dollars of sales authorised in April 2001 by President George W. Bush, according to the US-Taiwan Business Council, the private group that organised the San Antonio event. Taiwan's military budget has been decreasing in real terms as a proportion of total government spending and as a percentage of gross domestic product, a US expert told the conference.