Taiwan Communiqué No. 74, February 1997

China increases weapons purchases

Israel providing China with early-warning radar

In our October 1996 issue we referred briefly to a Defense News report that Israel is planning to sell an advanced Phalcom radar system to the Chinese, which would provide 360-degree coverage for fighters at a range of more than 200 nautical miles.

In the beginning of January 1997, Defense News published further details on the plans, indicating that Israel seems to want to push ahead with the plans in spite of American and Russian objections ("Israel pushes China aircraft deal despite US, Russian objections", Defense News, January 6-12, 1997).

Oddly, the deal involves an Ilyushin-76 transport plane, which would be reconfigured to accept the radar system and thus serve as an upgraded early-warning aircraft. The Russians are hesitating to release the plane, which is being worked on by the Moscow-based company Briev. The Israeli's intend to discuss the issue at the upcoming Moscow visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in March 1997.

British sale of Searchwater radar ?

In the October 1996 issue of Taiwan Communiqué we also reported on Defense News reports that Britain's Racal Electronics plc. was considering selling a 40-million British pounds Searchwater naval radar system to the Chinese for installation on Y-8 aircraft operating in the Taiwan Straits and the areas around the Paracels and Spratley's.

A recent Defense News issue reported that the delivery of up to eight over-the-horizon systems are now pending ("China, Britain seal deal for Searchwater radar", Defense News, 20-26 January 1997).

Buying two destroyers from Russia

Other report indicate that the Chinese are also purchasing two Russian-built destroyers, which are armed with the supersonic, long-range SS-N22 (Sunburn) antiship missile.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US$ 800 million deal for the two Sovremenny-class destroyers was secretly agreed upon during Premier Li Peng's trip in late December 1996 ("Beijing quietly agrees to buy two warships from Russia", WSJ, 14 January 1997). According to the report, this acquisition advances the technology of China's fleet by a decade, and moves China much closer to its goal of building a blue-water navy, that would enhance its power in naval conflicts with its neighbors in the Pacific Rim.

The Journal also reported that China is considering purchasing up to 50 Sukhoi S-30 MK top-of-the line fighter aircraft, which could be used in longer-range bombing missions, and thus further enhance China's offensive capabilities, especially in a potential clash with Taiwan.

China improving accuracy of its missiles

In the summer of 1995, and again in February-March 1996, China caused a major crisis in East Asia by launching missiles into an area just off the coast of Taiwan. The missile firings and the accompanying military exercises were generally considered to be intimidation tactics, designed to scare the Taiwanese away from moving further on the road to a free and independent Taiwan.

While China's present missile arsenal is seen as less than accurate, there are recent reports indicating that the Chinese are working hard to increase the accuracy of the missiles, and are increasing the capabilities to strike Taiwan. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Mr. Richard D. Fisher of the Asia Studies Center of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, China is turning Fukien Province, opposite Taiwan, into a ready launch area for the very mobile DF-15 missile, which has a range of 360 miles ("China's Missiles Threat", WSJ, 30 December 1996).

The WSJ-article describes how the DF-15 missile can be easily moved from their larger bases in Anhui Province to scores of presurveyed launch areas in Fukien. These preparations enable China to carry out more accurate DF-15 attacks against Taiwan.

The article also describes China's efforts to enhance the accuracy of the DF-15 with American global positioning satellite technology. The present strike capability of the DF-15 is already quite accurate, with a circular error probability of 300 meters radius. With GPS inputs, the DF-15 would become one of the most accurate battlefield missiles in the world.

The WSJ article furthermore mentions the improvements China is making on the accuracy of the DF-21 intermediate range missile, which has a range of 1125 miles. Two of these missiles were launched against Taiwan in the summer of 1995. The Chinese are reportedly working on a radar-based terminal guidance system, which would match pictures obtained by the missile's radar to digital map pictures in the missile's computer, resulting in an accuracy of better than 50-meter radius.

A similar assessment as the Wall Street Journal's was made in mid-December 1996 in an article in Defense News ("Chinese Strive to boost range, aim of missiles", 9-15 December 1996). In the article, Barabara Opall reports on a visit to the Airshow China '96 in the beginning of November 1996, and states: "Engineers and technical researchers interviewed ... revealed a myriad achievements in advanced propulsion, terminal guidance, digital mapping and satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) technology."

The Defense News article also reveals that the Chinese have developed a short-range air defense missile called LY-60, or Hunting Eagle, and are working to significantly improve the guidance technology of their cruise missiles. The extended range C-301 missile could fly up to 180 kilometers (enough to cross the Taiwan Straits) at twice the speed of sound.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: all the abovementioned developments indicate that China is quickly developing a capability to threaten Taiwan and other neighboring East Asian nations much more than it has in the past. This may lead to major instability in East Asia. It is thus essential that all governments concerned, Israel, Great Britain, Russia and the United States, immediately take steps to stop the proposed sales and strictly limit the transfer of technology to China, which is enabling China to proceed with these developments.

Israel should be aware of the fact it is selling weaponry to a belligerent bully which is threatening its much smaller neighbors. Many of the practices of the Chinese are equivalent to those of the Nazis. By supplying this system to the Chinese, Israel is thus becoming a "merchant of death." We thus urge the Israeli authorities to act responsibly and to call off the sale.

In the same way, Great Britain should take steps to stop the sale of the Searchwater radar. The UK authorities would not appreciate it either if Taiwan would start supplying weapons to the IRA terrorists. We thus urge the London authorities to prevent advanced radar systems from falling in the hands of the Peoples' Liberation Army terrorists in Beijing who repress their own people, and who threaten Taiwan.

Finally, we call upon the US authorities to be less gullible about its relations with China, and to ensure that China does not obtain US dual-use technologies which could enhance China's military offensive capabilities. The American track record in this area has been flawed at best (see our earlier articles about leakage of e.g. McDonnell technology to China).

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