Sun, May 07, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Conflict on the horizon, warns US

CRISIS LOOMING High-level military experts in Taiwan and the US say the odds of China firing missiles around the nation's waters soon are shortening


Wargames in the Taiwan Strait look increasingly likely, according to local and US military experts yesterday.

Just days ago the principal Pentagon official on US security policy in East Asia and the Pacific, Kurt Campbell, said at a lunch meeting organized by Jane's Information Group, that the Strait was going to be "much less stable, a much more difficult and much more complex situation." over the the next few years.

Other local and US politicians yesterday continued to draw attention to potential military intimidation against Taiwan by China in the near future.

DPP lawmaker Parris Chang (張旭成), a long-time member of the defense committee in Taiwan's legislature, said it was his understanding China was very likely to test-fire ballistic missiles again as part of its plans for military intimidation against Taiwan, according to reports from the Central News Agency.

Chang, now visiting Germany, made the prediction in a speech which he delivered at a university in Berlin.

He said China's test-firing of missiles will have a limited effect upon Taiwan if the People's Liberation Army (PLA) cannot gain an advantage over Taiwan's armed forces for control of the air and sea.

Chang called on the public to be psychologically prepared for a new missile crisis on a scale similar to missile tests in the 1995 to 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis.

He did not identify, however, when or under what circumstances China will use missiles to harass Taiwan again.

Meanwhile, a US senator warned that in the next two weeks, China is likely to launch a military exercise to subject Taiwan to its will, according to a local newspaper.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, said he hoped he was wrong but he would not exclude the possibility of wargames by China in the lead-up to Taiwan's May 20 presidential inauguration.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said intelligence information showed China is planning to test-fire not only ballistic missiles, but also newly-developed cruise missiles against Taiwan over the next two months.

The target area for the missiles is most likely in the East China Sea, somewhere between Japan and Taiwan, the official said.

Jan Hao-ming (詹皓明), a senior editor at the Defense Technology Monthly magazine, said two types of cruise missiles are already in service in the PLA, but there were limited numbers of them.

"They include an air-launched cruise missile and a land-launched version. The air-launched one has a range of 300km to 500km, while the land-launched version can reach targets 1,000km away," Jan said.

"We are not sure whether these cruise missiles have terrain mapping capabilities. But China might have made some technology breakthrough in its development of cruise missiles over the past decade through Russian assistance and a careful study of unexploded Tomahawk cruise missiles, which the US used against Iraq in the Gulf War," he said.

Jan said he did not think the PLA would put cruise missiles on the list of weapons it plans to show off to Taiwan in a planned military exercise in the Taiwan Strait, starting on June 6 and lasting for around one month.

"A test-firing of cruise missiles will reveal too many secrets about the weapons. I don't think the PLA will run the risk. But frankly speaking, if China uses cruise missiles against Taiwan, Taiwan cannot do much about it," he said.

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