China increases missile threat to Taiwan

London, 10 February 1999

The London-based Financial Times reported on 10 February 1999 that China has sharply increased its deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan. The move sharply increases tension in the region.

The newspaper cited military analysts in Washington who had access to a classified Pentagon report, which stated that the Chinese had stationed 150 to 200 M-9 and M-11 missiles in its southern regions aimed at Taiwan.

The Financial Times quoted a senior U.S. administration official as warning that China "couldn't assume that a continued missile build-up in Southeast Asia will go unanswered.''

The newspaper said that the reported escalation, coming before a planned visit to Washington in the spring by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, was emerging as a serious foreign policy headache for the Clinton administration.

It reported that it was "...causing sharp differences within the U.S. government over an appropriate response,'' adding that the Department of Defense was said to favor a stronger show of support for Taiwan, but the State Department and National Security Council feared risks to Washington's growing ''co-operative strategic partnership'' with Beijing.

According to the report, China had 30 to 50 short-range ballistic missiles in its southern areas in 1995-96 when it launched the M-9 missiles into waters off Taiwan, prompting President Clinton to send two aircraft carrier task groups to the area.

The Financial Times reported that a Pentagon study in October concluded that China was pouring resources into missile development to improve its ability to prevail in a local conflict on its south-eastern flank ``especially in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.''

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