Wed, Mar 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Missile buildup is accelerating: MND

GROWING ARSENAL The minister said that China's missile arsenal now tops 800, giving Beijing the ability to rain terror upon Taiwan's key infrastructure

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

Lieutenant Colonel Chen Chang-hwa, an intelligence analyst specializing in the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) missile development, points to a map yesterday detailing the deployment of 140 Dong Feng (DF) series ballistic missiles in Leping, Jiangxi Province.

PHOTO: CHEN TSE-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday that China now has more than 800 missiles targeting Taiwan, and is increasing that arsenal at a faster pace of 75 to 100 per year.

The news came as Beijing defended its recent announcement of another double-digit increase -- 14.7 percent -- in this year's military budget.

"China was producing around 50 Dong Feng [DF] series ballistic missiles annually, but ... our intelligence has found it is now increasing by 75 to 100 ballistic missiles annually," said Lieutentant Colonel Chen Chang-hwa (陳章華), an intelligence analyst specializing in the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) missile development, at a press conference held by the ministry yesterday.

Chen said if cruise missiles are included, China now has more than 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan, enabling Beijing to potentially launch a five-wave missile attack continuing for 10 hours.

The PLA's ballistic missiles are now also more precise, according to Chen. They used to have a 600m margin of error, but that has been reduced to 50m, giving China the capability to more accurately hit Taiwan's power stations, radar bases, airstrips and military, economic and political nerve centers.

China's main ballistic missiles are DF-11 missiles that have a range of 600km, and DF-15 missiles that have a range of 800km, Chen added.

Chen said the PLA deploys its ballistic missiles in five bases in southeast China, at Leping and Kanzhou cities in Jiangxi Province, Meizhou City in Guangdong Province and Yongan and Xianyou cities in Fujian Province.

"The missiles can be transported by rail at any time to [China's] coastal areas," Chen added.

The MND also revealed details about the 1996 cross-strait missile crisis on the eve of the event's 10th anniversary.

On March 8, 1996, ahead of Taiwan's first presidential election, China fired ballistic missiles into the sea near Taiwan.

MND spokesman Rear Admiral Liu Chih-chien (劉志堅) said that China had conducted drills for missile attacks on Taiwan in 1995 and 1996.

From July 21 to July 24, 1995, the PLA launched six DF-15 missiles from Jiangxi Province's Qianshan City, which traveled 481km before dropping into the sea 130km north of Taiwan, Liu said.

From March 8 to March 13, 1996, the PLA launched one DF-15 missile from Fujian Province's Nanping City, which traveled 500km and landed just 37km from Taiwan.

It also launched three DF-15 missiles from Yongan City that flew 460km before landing 55.5km from Kaohsiung City, Liu said.

"The two missile exercises proved that China's DF-series ballistic missiles, which have better accuracy, are able to effectively attack Taiwan's critical facilities and blockade the island," Liu said.

Liu said that while the 1995 missile drill was intended to bully Taiwan after former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) visit to the US, the 1996 drill was an attempt to influence that year's presidential election.

The ministry had said that the missile exercises had a profound influence on the country's defense preparations.

The military started to develop anti-missile warfare capabilities after the drills, and began developing the nation's own strategic missiles to deter China.

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