* Taiwan Quadrennial Defence Review first under President
* Rise in Chinese military activity underscores defence
* U.S. Asia-Pac strategic direction not clear
* Japan military buildup has deep impact on Asia-Pac
* China's Li opposed to Taiwan independence, committed to
(Adds comment from Chinese premier at annual news conference)
By J.R. Wu
TAIPEI, March 15 China's accelerated military
development and recent activity by its military aircraft and
ships around Taiwan pose an increased threat to the self-ruled
island, according to a Taiwanese government defence report draft
reviewed by Reuters.
The 2017 Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) also highlights
the uncertainty over the future strategic direction of the
United States in the region, the impact of Japan flexing its
military capabilities and "conflict crisis" potential in the
disputed South China Sea.
The document is due to be presented to parliament on
Thursday by Taiwan defence minister Feng Shih-kuan.
"The recent activity of Chinese jets and ships around Taiwan
shows the continued rise in (China's) military threat
capabilities," highlighting the importance of Taiwan's need to
defend itself, the review will say.
"In addition to posing a military threat to our country, it
also has a negative impact on regional stability."
The four-yearly review is the first since President Tsai
Ing-wen took office last May and the first under her Democratic
Progressive Party, which traditionally advocates independence
"The country's military development and Taiwan's freedom and
prosperity are the same living body," according to the draft.
The QDR comes as China - which claims Taiwan as a wayward
province to be taken back by force if necessary - has been
stepping up air and sea military exercises in waters surrounding
Taiwan as part of a sweeping modernisation of its armed forces.
Speaking in Beijing at his annual news conference on
Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang repeated that China was
resolutely opposed to Taiwan independence but it would uphold
peace across the Taiwan Strait.
"No matter how the situation on the island may evolve, the
fraternal bond between the two sides cannot be severed and will
not be able to change history or the fact that both sides belong
to one and the same China," Li said.
Taiwan's defence ministry had no comment on the report on
Developments in the South China Sea, including rejection of
an international court ruling by other claimants on territorial
rights of the Philippines in the disputed waters, China's land
reclamation and militarisation, and freedom of navigation
patrols championed by the United States could deepen strife in
the area, the review will say.
"Sovereignty disputes in the region and strategic
competition could intensify, leading to hidden conflict crisis."
China has begun new construction work on a disputed island
in the South China Sea, satellite images show, just days ahead
of the first official visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson.
The review also listed Japan's move away from its pacifist
constitution "to strengthen its armaments and lift a ban on
using troops abroad" as having deep and far-reaching impacts on
the security situation in the Asia-Pacific and the Taiwan
Reuters reported this week that Japan plans to send its
largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China
Sea beginning in May - its biggest show of naval force in the
region since World War Two.
Among security challenges for Taiwan, the review also said
"the United States' Asia-Pacific strategic direction and troop
deployment was not clear" under the new administration of
President Donald Trump.
Trump provoked consternation in Beijing by taking a
congratulatory call from Taiwan's Tsai and then calling into
question adherence to the "One China" policy, under which
Washington acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only
one China and Taiwan is part of it.
Last month, Trump agreed to honour the policy during a phone
call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The United States remains Taiwan's biggest ally and arms
supplier and is bound by legislation to provide the means to
help the island defend itself.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by