Military uses mainland threat to press for $141b in new arms The number of mainland missiles pointing at Taiwan will reach 800 in 2006, enough for the PLA to launch 10 hours of continuous attack on the island, Taiwan's defence ministry has warned. The threat was highlighted at a briefing for media executives on Friday in an attempt to secure support for the government's plan to buy NT$610 billion (HK$141 billion) worth of arms, including submarines from the United States. The ministry's report also came amid speculation that the People's Liberation Army would launch its annual Dongshan military exercise on Fujian Island in the Taiwan Strait. According to the report, carried by the Taiwanese paper Liberty Times, Taipei considered the PLA's second artillery troop as posing the biggest menace to Taiwan. It said the number of guided missiles would increase from about 600 now to 800 in 2006. This would enable the PLA to launch five rounds of attack on Taiwan, lasting 10 hours. The ministry said the missiles would be deployed in at least five locations on the mainland, including Leping and Ganzhou in Jiangxi province , Yongan and Xianyou in Fujian province and Meizhou in Guangdong. Strikes from the Jiangxi base would sabotage the island's administrative centre in Taipei, it said. The PLA is also reportedly capable of deploying 12 to 16 submarine cruising networks to blockade the Taiwan Strait. The ministry said the island would respond with a counterattack at the mainland's communications targets as well as major ports, airports and roads. It could also use cruise missiles to hit major targets, and submarines would be deployed to the enemy's major harbours and seaways for sabotage and attack, according to the briefing. But with its existing capability, Taiwan would not be able to withstand a mainland attack, the ministry said. Defence Minister Lee Jye pointed out in Friday's briefing that the arms deal, which the legislature has questioned, is essential because of the potential military threats from the mainland, especially when the military balance in the Taiwan Strait is expected to tilt in Beijing's favour by 2006. The deal, approved by Washington in 2001, includes NT$144.9 billion for six sets of PAC-3 anti-missile systems, $412 billion for eight conventional submarines and $53 billion for 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft. Meanwhile, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday that the Dongshan Island drill to be staged by the army, navy and the air force of the PLA, was aimed at simulating an attack on Taiwan, as its topography and coastlines were similar to that of Taiwan. The war exercise on Dongshan, which is just 275km from Taiwan's Penghu Island, would be the first large-scale drill since the PLA held similar manoeuvres there in 2001. The drill is also aimed at sharpening the PLA's ability to secure air supremacy over the strait, according to the report.