Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Beijing tests missile defense system

MISSILE INTERCEPT Analysts said while the test may be intended to put pressure on the US over Taiwan, it was also a general show of force on the part of Beijing


Visitors view the Chinese primary generation missile on display at a military museum in Beijing yesterday.


China said yesterday it had successfully tested a missile intercept system in what analysts described as a show of its advanced air defense capabilities amid tensions over US arms sales to Taiwan.

“China conducted a test of ground-based mid-range missile interception technology within its territory, which achieved its objective,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said.

“This test is defensive in nature and not targeted at any other country and is consistent with the national defense policy of China,” Jiang told reporters.

Government response in Taiwan was muted, with the Ministry of National Defense saying it had no comment.

“We continue to monitor China’s latest weapons development and will continue to do so,” said Major General Yu Sy-tue (虞思祖), spokesman for the ministry.

News of China’s test came soon after an announcement by a US official in Taipei that the Pentagon had approved the sale of Patriot missile equipment to Taiwan as part of a package passed by Congress more than a year ago.

Beijing has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the sales and urged Washington to cancel the deal.

The Chinese defense ministry had warned at the weekend that it reserved the right to take unspecified action if Washington followed through with the sale, which it called a “severe obstacle” to China-US military ties.

However, analysts said while China’s test would keep pressure on the US over deals with Taiwan, it was likely to have been conducted as a general show of force.

“It sounds pretty significant to me,” said Richard Bitzinger, an expert on China’s military at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“The information is pretty thin, but the critical fact is that they conducted a successful missile intercept,” he said.

Scott Harold, an analyst at RAND Corporation, agreed, saying: “I would be inclined to view the test as a stride, but how much of one is unclear in the absence of more information, towards a missile defense capability.”

Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a research fellow and China specialist at National Chengchi University, said the test sends a “political signal to the United States and to other countries that China is prepared for air operations, full-scale operations by whatever country.”

“There is no detailed information so it is very hard to assess how much China has achieved, but at least it can show a trend that air defense is an area of focus for the overall military modernization,” he said.

Beijing has poured money into its military in recent years as part of a major drive to upgrade the equipment used by the nation’s 2.3-million-strong armed forces.

A budget submitted to parliament in March showed that Chinese military spending rose 15.3 percent last year to US$69 billion, the latest in more than a decade-long string of double-digit increases.

Faced with growing concern overseas about its military intentions, Beijing frequently stresses the defensive nature of its armed forces.

“China’s defense modernization is for the legitimate needs of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” Jiang said yesterday.

The Global Times quoted senior military strategist Yang Chengjun as saying that the test had “ushered China into a new phase in terms of missile interception technologies.”

“China needs an improved capability and more means of military defense as the country faces increasing security threats,” Yang said.

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