Taiwan is ready to defend itself against invasion from China, Defense Minister Wu Shih-wen reassured parliament in response to the latest threat from the mainland.
"We have been preparing for the worst for several years," Wu said, adding that the island had sufficient military power to safeguard national security.
But he pledged that Taipei would never be the first to fire.
A senior Chinese military leader said last month that a cross-strait war was inevitable in the next five years.
"During the period of the 10th five-year plan, it is certain that war will break out in the Taiwan strait," said Zhang Wannian, vice chairman of the central military commission, at an equipment conference in southern China's Guangzhou city last month, according to the Oriental Daily News.
China's next five-year economic plan starts in 2001.
In order to guarantee a victory, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would be the first to strike, Zhang said.
The PLA would first paralyze the power installations and the combat ability of Taiwanese fighter jets, he was cited by the Chinese-language Hong Kong-based newspaper as saying.
However, Wu stressed that "we are not sure whose words to trust," in apparent reference to Chinese President Jiang Zemin's softer tone regarding cross-strait relations.
Beijing's president also heads the military commission.
Tension between Taipei and the mainland has increased since Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party swept to power in the March 18 polls.
In his inaugural speech, Chen pledged he would neither declare independence nor seek a plebiscite on the fate of the island during his four-year tenure.
But he has refused to embrace Beijing's "one China" policy which stipulates mainland sovereignty over Taiwan.
Beijing regards the rejection as an inclination towards formal independence, and refuses to resume rapprochement talks until Taiwan accepts the principle -- TAIPEI (AFP)
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