Washington Times

China points more missiles at Taiwan

By Bill Gertz

Washington, November 23, 1999

China is expanding a missile base across from Taiwan where nearly 100 of Beijing's newest short-range missile systems will be deployed, increasing the threat to the island.

Construction at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) missile base at Yangang, some 275 miles from Taiwan, was photographed by U.S. spy satellites in mid-October, according to Clinton administration officials familiar with intelligence reports on the activity.

The officials said the construction is being carried out for the planned deployment of a brigade of advanced CSS-7 missiles -- also known as advanced M-11s, officials told The Washington Times. A Chinese missile brigade is estimated to have 16 launchers and up to 96 missiles.

U.S. intelligence agencies expect the missiles deployed at the base to be the new CSS-7 Mod 2, which can carry several different types of warheads up to about 300 miles. The new missile was shown publicly for the first time Oct. 1 at the Communist Party's celebration in Beijing of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The missiles can be armed with small nuclear warheads. China has obtained small-warhead technology from the United States through espionage.

According to Pentagon officials, the longer-range version of the CSS-7 is solid-fueled and deployed on road-mobile truck launchers, making them rapid-fire systems that are very hard to detect and track. Pentagon officials said the new CSS-7s will be armed with conventional high-explosive warheads and have other high-tech payloads available.

Alternative conventional warheads are expected to include cluster bombs -- warheads containing numerous bomblets; deep-penetrating warheads for use against concrete facilities; and exotic electromagnetic-pulse warheads that disrupt electronic devices ranging from cars to computers with a burst of energy similar to that produced in a nuclear blast.

The Chinese also have developed fuel-air explosives for the new missiles. Fuel-air explosives are high-explosive bombs that can destroy large areas, like airfields.

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview earlier this month that the Chinese missile buildup is driving the United States to help Taiwan develop advanced missile defenses. U.S. support for joint missile defense is allowed under the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows the United States to provide the island with adequate defenses against Chinese invasion.

"We're talking about a balance here," the admiral said earlier this month. "And a count of 500 or 600 [missiles] to very few defenses doesn't seem like a very good balance," he said.

U.S. talks with Taiwan on building missile defenses are "related to the fact that [the Chinese] have an extensive missile-building program going on their side of the Taiwan Strait." If China does not want Taiwan to have missile defenses, the Chinese should not go ahead with the buildup, he said.

According to a recent Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, China is building up its short-range missile forces near Taiwan from a few hundred now to as many as 650 by 2005. The DIA said China produced 150 M-9 and M-11 missiles last year, and most are deployed in units stationed along the Chinese coastline near Taiwan. It said this year China is expected to field a total of 200 missiles and will add some 50 missiles a year.

A second Pentagon report to Congress released earlier this year stated that "in an armed conflict with Taiwan, China's short-range ballistic missiles likely would target air defense installations, naval bases, [command-and-control] nodes and logistics facilities." "The PLA will continue to field large numbers of increasingly accurate, short-range ballistic missiles and introduce land-attack cruise missiles into its inventory," the report stated.

Still a third Pentagon report said the Chinese buildup will produce "a large arsenal of highly accurate and lethal theater missiles" that represent a "revolutionary departure" from past Chinese military deployments near Taiwan. In past years, China did not have large forces deployed near Taiwan.

Tensions between China and Taiwan increased last summer when Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui talked about "state-to-state" dialogue with Beijing -- remarks viewed by Beijing as promoting independence.

The missiles are both a psychological weapon and a power-projection threat, the third report said. "The focus on Taiwan may reflect a view within the People's Liberation Army that force eventually may have to be used," the report said.

A U.S. government official who is an expert on the Chinese military said the Clinton administration has tried to ignore Beijing's missile buildup. "Both Beijing and the State Department are in agreement that Taiwan does not deserve adequate missile defenses while both are also in agreement that the U.S. and Taiwan should ignore Beijing's blossoming ballistic missiles," the official said.

A State Department spokesman in February sought to play down reports of the missile buildup. "Reports that suggest that there has been a sudden new deployment are wrong," said James Foley, a department spokesman. "As part of its military modernization, China has been deploying missiles for some time."