Chinese exercise targets Taiwan
Washington, January 26, 1999
China's army conducted a military exercise last month with
simulated missile firings against Taiwan and also for the
first time conducted mock attacks on U.S. troops in the
region, according to Pentagon intelligence officials.
The exercise began in late November and ended in early
December as road-mobile CSS-5 medium-range missiles maneuvered
along China's coast, said officials familiar with a Dec. 2
Defense Intelligence Agency report on the exercise.
Disclosure of the Chinese exercise comes as officials in the
Clinton administration said efforts are under way to soften
the conclusions of a congressionally mandated report on
missile defenses and missile threats in Asia, including new
details on the rapidly growing Chinese missile arsenal.
According to sensitive intelligence gathered by U.S.
satellites, aircraft and ships that monitored the Chinese
exercise, People's Liberation Army units, including those
equipped with intermediate-range CSS-5s and silo-housed CSS-2
missile units practiced firing missiles at Taiwan.
Intelligence information also indicated that the U.S. Army
troops based in South Korea, and Marine Corps troops on the
Japanese island of Okinawa and mainland Japan were targeted
with strikes. "They were doing mock missile attacks on
our troops," said one official.
White House spokesman David Leavy said he could not comment
on intelligence matters. A senior administration official
confirmed that the missiles were CSS-2s, first deployed in
1971, and CSS-5s, first fielded in the 1980s. Both weapons had
"never been pointed our way before," the senior
official said. "The important point is these are not new
missiles." The official did not address the threat the
Chinese missiles posed to the 37,000 troops based in South
Korea, and 47,000 troops in Japan, including about 25,000
Marines on Okinawa.
The intelligence report also raises questions about the
recent statement of Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who
announced during the June summit in Beijing that he and
President Clinton agreed "we will not target each other
with the strategic nuclear arms under our control."
The Chinese leader told reporters June 27 that the
detargeting "shows the whole world that China and the
U.S. are cooperative partners instead of adversaries."
Pentagon officials said, however, the simulated attacks are a
sign China is prepared to go to war with the United States
over the issue of Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway
province and not an independent nation.
The vulnerability of U.S. troops in Asia to missile attacks
is a sensitive issue. North Korea has deployed medium-range
Nodong missiles that also can hit troops in both Korea and
Japan, although the Pentagon has been reluctant to acknowledge
During the recent exercise, the Chinese mobile missiles were
observed erected on truck launchers, but none was actually
fired, said officials who declined to be named. One military
official said the exercises also showed China's growing
capability to counter U.S. laser-guided bombs, using what the
Pentagon calls "obscurance." The masking involves
spraying clouds of small particles around the missiles that
cause laser tracking devices to bounce off their intended
targets and fool adversaries guiding the bombs into believing
the weapons are on target.
The CSS-2 was the only intermediate-range missile ever
exported. China sold a battery of the missiles to Saudi Arabia
in the 1980s. According to an earlier Pentagon intelligence
report, China is engaged in a major program to upgrade its 40
CSS-2s with newer and more capable CSS-5s, which come in two
versions. Liquid-fueled CSS-2s, with ranges of about 1,922
miles, are being replaced in some regions by solid-propellent
CSS-5s that have a maximum range of 1,333 miles, the 1996
During the Taiwan straits crisis of March 1996, China fired
short-range M-9 test missiles north and south of the island in
what U.S. officials said at the time was an attempt to
intimidate Taiwan shortly before its first presidential
elections. Those exercises led the Pentagon to deploy two U.S.
aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near the island.
Regarding the report due to reach Congress Jan. 1, the
Pentagon has been held up from sending the report to the House
Armed Services Committee because of disagreements with its
conclusions. The senior official said the delay is due to "normal
interagency discussion about an important national security
issue" and that it will be sent to Congress "in a
The report to Congress examines the possible components for
regional missile defenses in Asia that would have the
capability of protecting key regional allies from missile
attack. It was mandated by the fiscal 1999 defense
authorization bill and will include descriptions of U.S.
missile defenses that could be transferred to key allies in
Asia for "self-defense against limited ballistic missile
attacks," according to the legislation requiring it.
According to officials familiar with the draft report, the
Pentagon study shows that China is engaged in a major
strategic missile buildup of several types of weapons that
political officials are reluctant to publicize for fear of
upsetting the Chinese government. China's government is
opposed to deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Asia because
they could counter Chinese missiles.
The White House and State Department's East Asia bureau are
said to be seeking to water down some of the harsh conclusions
of the report, while the Pentagon and CIA want it to present
unvarnished views of the Chinese missile threat, according to
officials close to the debate.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the China missile report
is being worked on and could be released later this week or
early next week, or "perhaps later."
Richard Fisher, a China specialist at the Heritage
Foundation, noted that the Chinese may not view the June
detargeting pledge to include shorter-range nuclear missiles,
only long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Mr.
Fisher said the targeting of U.S. forces in the recent
exercise "highlights the most important aspect of any
future Chinese military threat to the region." "Chinese
doctrine puts special emphasis on missile forces -- concealing
mobile forces for obtaining surprise, and using a wide variety
of current and future nuclear and nonnuclear warheads,"
The exercise also highlights the need to build regional
missile defense for American forces in Asia and to help
protect allies, he said.
Officially, the Pentagon said it does not know of the
threatening missile-targeting activities. Mr. Bacon said he
would not comment on any specific intelligence report, "but
I can tell you we are not aware of a simulated attack against
U.S. troops in Asia during a missile exercise."