Mon, Nov 20, 2000 - Page 1 News List

China's threats a bluff, says official

SABER RATTLING The second-highest military leader in China reportedly said that war was coming, but an official in Taiwan said the remarks were simply empty words

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A high-ranking Taiwan defense official yesterday said that China's threat to go to war over Taiwan within five years was nothing but a bluff.

China's Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Zhang Wannian (張萬年) declared in an internal meeting in Guangdong Province last month that there will be a war in the Taiwan Strait in the next five years, according to a Hong Kong newspaper report.

"This is just part of China's usual tactics to try to intimidate Taiwan. In fact, it may be more effective than actually using force. People in Taiwan are quite vulnerable to this sort of psychological warfare," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Taipei Times.

"There is a good reason for the Chinese military to use these intimidation tactics against us from time to time. They know we tend to overrate the military capability of our enemy. They are just taking advantage of our weak spot," the official said.

Zhang, China's second-highest military leader, is widely known as one of the most hawkish military leaders on the Taiwan issue.

"In the next five-year national development period [from 2001 to 2005], there will certainly be a war in the Taiwan Strait," Zhang was quoted as saying by the Oriental Daily News in Hong Kong.

Zhang encouraged troops in the Guangzhou military region to be the vanguard of the attack on Taiwan, the report said.

He also reportedly said that China's military has the capability to paralyze Taiwan's power supply systems in short order, but that nuclear power plants would not be targeted.

A Taiwan military official with in-depth knowledge of China's offensive capability said that an instant paralysis of power islandwide could not be done with conventional weapons. A nuclear attack, however, would destroy Taiwan's power grid.

"Another possible way to achieve similar effects [without using nuclear weapons] would be to use EMP [electro-magnetic pulse] bombs. But China does not currently have these weapons, although they are working on their development. If the Chinese say they can attack us with EMP bombs [now], do not believe them," the official said.

Zhang has made similar remarks since former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) announced his "special state-to-state" statement last July.

On one occasion, Zhang threatened to level Taiwan with bombs if it continued to be insubordinate.

Zhang is set to leave his current post as the vice chairman of the central military commission in 2002 as a result of a leadership reshuffle which will take place at the 16th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party held in the same year.

Although Zhang does not have long left to serve in the military, after his commission is finished, he will be re-assigned as the highest-ranking official of a task force whose only job will be to handle issues related to Taiwan.

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