Sun, May 22, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US defense report belies PLA’s denial of missile threat

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

The US is again disputing statements made earlier this week about Taiwan by General Chen Bingde (陳炳德), chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

This time it concerns his denial that there is a Chinese missile threat against Taiwan.

On Thursday, the US Department of State issued a “clarification” to correct Chen’s version of what US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said to him about US policy toward Taiwan.

During a weeklong tour of the US, Chen had told a Pentagon press conference that Taiwan had no need for US weapons systems to guarantee its security.

“One American friend suggested that China remove or withdraw the missiles deployed across the Taiwan Strait along our southeast coast,” Chen had said. “I can tell you here, responsibly, that we only have garrison deployment across from Taiwan and we do not have operational deployment — much less missiles stationed there.”

US military experts later said that they were “amazed” by Chen’s statement and that there was overwhelming proof of Chinese missile deployment across the Strait.

Asked about the general’s comments, a US Department of Defense official said on Friday night: “The Department of Defense’s annual report to [US] Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China [PRC] accurately characterizes the size, location and capabilities — including the disposition — of PRC missile forces opposite Taiwan.”

While being careful not to mention Chen by name, the statement clearly indicated that he was not telling the truth when he said there were no missiles stationed opposite Taiwan.

The most recent edition of the report mentioned by the Pentagon official said: “China’s military build-up opposite the island [Taiwan] continued unabated.”

“By December 2009, the PLA had deployed between 1,050 and 1,150 CSS-6 [DF-15] and CSS-7 [DF-11] short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) to units opposite Taiwan,” it said. “It is upgrading the lethality of this force, including by introducing variants of these missiles with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads.”

“The PLA is developing the capability to deter Taiwan independence or influence Taiwan to settle the dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible US support for the island in case of conflict. The balance of cross-Strait [sic] military forces continues to shift in the mainland’s favor,” the report added.

According to the report, China has the most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program in the world. It is developing and testing several new classes and variants of offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading certain missile systems and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses.

The report, dated last year, said the PLA was acquiring large numbers of highly accurate cruise missiles such as the domestically produced ground-launched DH-10 land-attack cruise missile and the domestically produced ground and ship-launched YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile.

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