HONG KONG — In a televised speech that squelched months of speculation he might soon seek to improve relations with Beijing, President Chen Shui-bian said Sunday that Taiwan needed to increase its weapons purchases and warned against greater economic ties to the mainland. Chen had said fairly little in the weeks since his Democratic Progressive Party, which seeks greater political independence from the mainland, fared badly in municipal elections on Dec. 3. The Nationalist Party, which favors closer relations with Beijing, did much better in those elections and has been riding a surge in popularity since its then-chairman, Lien Chan, visited the mainland in late spring shortly before his retirement last summer. But Chen made clear Sunday that those setbacks would not fundamentally alter his policies. In his New Year’s speech, he used a series of politically charged phrases that appeal to independence advocates in Taiwan, but will probably offend Beijing, while calling for legislative approval of his plan to buy more weapons from the United States. Chen was especially emphatic in warning of the risks posed by the rapid modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, especially its heavy investments in missiles that can […]

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