Chen's remarks came ahead of the island's first National Day military parade since such displays were halted 16 years ago in an effort to improve relations with the mainland.

 

Military might

 

National Day marks the 1911 revolution that toppled the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China, the first republic in China.


"Taiwan and the People's Republic of China are two sovereign, independent nations"

Chen Shui-bian,
Taiwan president

The celebrations included a 40-minute parade displaying the military's top weaponry, including advanced missiles developed in Taiwan, warplanes and combat vehicles.

 

Launchers for local and US-supplied Patriot and Avenger anti-missile systems rumbled past the Presidential Office as US-made F-16s, French-made Mirages and Taiwan-made IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters roared over the capital.

 

But the military at the last minute withdrew a long-range cruise missile from the parade saying it was still under development.

 

The missile is said to be capable of striking Shanghai, China's financial capital.

 

Mainland China and self-ruled Taiwan have faced off since Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 following their defeat by the Communists at the end of the Chinese civil war.

 

Beijing has always regarded the island as a "renegade province" and threatened to use force, if necessary, to prevent it from declaring formal independence.

 

Failed UN bid

 

The display is aimed at showing that Taiwan
can repel an attack from the mainland [AFP]
In preparation for Wednesday's parade, the presidential office building in Taipei was adorned with large red blocks of Chinese characters reading "Taiwan to Rejoin the United Nations", instead of the usual "Republic of China National Day" shown previously.

 

In September the UN rejected Taiwan's 15th consecutive bid for membership, a decision Beijing said reaffirmed that the island was "an inseparable part of China".

 

The bid was a first attempt under the name "Taiwan" instead of its formal title "Republic of China".

 

In his speech on Wednesday Chen vowed to continue pushing for a referendum on seeking UN membership under the name Taiwan, and renewed a pledge to hold the vote simultaneously with the presidential election in March.

 

"Our people have the right to demand appropriate representation in the United Nations," he said. "We have the right to apply for admission to the UN as a new member under the name Taiwan."

 

Taiwan's military parade comes as mainland China's ruling communist party prepares to hold a landmark congress due to open on Monday, to be attended by more than 2,200 delegates.