Taiwan Communiqué No. 84, December 1998

China's military threat

Laser anti-satellite technology

According to reports in Aviation Week & Space Technology (9 November 1998) and in the Los Angeles Times (28 November 1998), China is developing directed-energy laser and high-power microwave weapons, which could be used to destroy U.S. satellites, aircraft and missiles. The information was based on Pentagon reports to Congress. According to the Pentagon, China may already have a limited capability to damage optical sensors on satellites.

The report expects that China may have its first high-power microwave weapon in operation by 2015. It is apparently pursuing several types of these weapons. One is a missile warhead that emits a single burst of microwaves to disable the target's electronics. This type of weapon is expected to be effective at a range beyond that of a high-explosive warhead.

Secondly, it is developing a radio-frequency beam system, that would be pointed against aircraft or missiles. It would aim a continuous flow of electro-magnetic energy against the target, disabling it within seconds.

In addition, the Pentagon reports that China is drastically improving its antiquated electronic warfare capability, and will likely add a number of new standoff EW aircraft to its inventory.

The Pentagon report also mentioned advances in missile capability, including a beyond-the-visual range, radio-frequency guided missile similar to the American AIM-120 Amraam, and a submerged-launch version of the C-802 cruise missile, as well as a higher-priority land-attack cruise missile.

Finally, the Pentagon report stated that advances in China's relatively young, manned space program could have military utility and lead to space-based military systems around 2010-20.

China still sells missile data

The International Herald Tribune reported on 13 November 1998, that according to American officials, China is continuing to transfer missile technology to Pakistan and Iran. This was occurring in spite of repeated assurances by the Chinese government that such transfers would be stopped.

The issue was raised by US under-secretary of State John Holum in meetings with Chinese officials in the beginning of November 1998 in an attempt to encourage the Chinese to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Chinese blackmail on export restrictions

Defense News of 23-29 November 1998, carried an article highlighting the Chinese reaction to Washington's belated tightening of dual-use and military technology exports to China following the Hughes-Loral affair (see Taiwan Communiqué, no. 81, p. 8-9 and no. 82, p. 15).

In no unsubtle terms, Chinese officials warned that if the restrictions are not lifted, China would turn to Europe. A quote from Mr. Wang Li-heng, vice-president of China Aerospace Corp.: "...U.S manufacturers ...will lose out on major business opportunities to their European competition."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: It is of course essential that the US and Europe don't let themselves be played out against each other in this crude fashion. Through the Hughes-Loral affair, the United States has finally learned that is was being taken for a ride by the Chinese.

Europe should match the determination in the US Congress not to let advanced technology leak to China, so it can use this technology to upgrade its missiles and terrorize its neighbors.

Submarines pose challenge to the US

The 16-22 November 1998 issue of Defense News carried an article by Mr. Greg Caires of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, VA focusing on the expansion and modernization of China's submarine fleet. The article states that this expanded and modernized submarine fleet could at some point become a "formidable challenge" to the US and its interests in the Western Pacific. It states that the Chinese are also "aggressively acquiring advanced undersea-warfare technology for insertion in their conventional and nuclear-powered submarines."

The article quotes reports that the Chinese are aiming at equaling US naval power, and states that the main problem is the fact that Washington is not sufficiently recognizing the threat of Chinese regional hegemony in the Western Pacific.

US security strategy

In the third week of November 1998, the US Defense Department issued its fourth quadrennial "Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific region." In the report, the U.S. presents a general outline of American defense strategy in the region. It is based on "comprehensive U.S. engagement", in which the forward presence of some 100,000 U.S. military personnel in Asia is a prime element.

The report mentions "Enhancing stability in the Taiwan Strait through peaceful approaches to cross-strait issues and encouraging dialogue between Beijing and Taipei" as one of United States' key security objectives for the future.

The report discusses Mr. Clinton's "comprehensive engagement" with China, and also noted that the US strategy of promoting democracy includes efforts to pursue a constructive, goal-oriented approach to achieving progress on human rights and rule of law issues with mainland China.

The report also briefly discusses Taiwan, stating that the United States "...maintains robust but unofficial relations with the people on Taiwan, governed by the Taiwan Relations Act and guided by the Three-U.S.-PRC joint communiqués." The report adds that "...the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: Perhaps someone should inform the US Defense Department that there are no Chinese people on the Taiwan side of the Strait anymore: during the past election campaign, President Lee Teng-hui declared that all people on Taiwan, including the mainlanders, are "New Taiwanese."

In any case, it is farfetched to let the future of Taiwan be decided by the Chinese on the China side of the Strait: this would be a grave violation of the principle of democracy. We don't argue that the future of the U.S. be decided by the British, do we ?

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