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Thu, Dec 09, 1999 - Page 2 News List

Lien says Taiwan needs new long-range missile

MILITARY The vice president has suggested that new surface-to-surface missiles should be developed to meet the needs of a new defense strategy

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice President Lien Chan (3s戰) yesterday declared for the first time that Taiwan is to develop long-range surface-to-surface missiles as part of its strategic forces to deter potential military threats from China.

But the statement was rebuffed by military officials, who said they could not comment on the matter.

"We must build up a reliable deterrent and strengthen our second-strike capabilities in the future. The goal will be achieved through the deployment of high-mobility air and naval forces and long-range surface-to-surface missiles," Lien said.

Lien made the remarks at the opening ceremony of an academic conference on national security and military strategy, which was attended by military personnel and scholars in the field.

The comments appeared to be a reference to the Tien Ma or "Sky Horse" missile program developed secretly in the 1980s.

Lien also declared that the country's defensive strategy must be modified from a passive defense to an "aggressive defense."

"I suggest a modification of defense strategy to allow more space for the military. We need an aggressive defense to effectively deter China's potential military threats and to maintain the peace and security of Taiwan," Lien said.

Lien's remarks on the program have been widely reported by local media as a confirmation of the military's secret development of a medium- or long-range surface-to-surface missile.

In response, however, the Ministry of National Defense issued statements emphasizing that Lien's comments represented his own viewpoint and not the military's.

"The vice president was just expressing his own opinions concerning development of the missile. The defense ministry has no grounds to voice agreement or disagreement about it," said Minister of National Defense Tang Fei (--?/CHINESE>) at the legislature.

"That the ministry did not deny knowledge of the long-range surface-to-surface missile does not mean that it is a fact," said an official at the defense ministry, who declined to be identified.

Commenting on Lien's suggestion of a change of defense strategy from a passive defense to an "aggressive defense," the official emphasized again that Lien was expressing his own views on the issue.

"It is too early to talk about a change in defense strategy. Lien's proposition represents his own thinking. If there must be a change to it, a prior formal discussion among government leadership is required," the official said.

"It is understandable that Lien proposed an aggressive defense policy. He wanted it to provide a framework for the deployment of strategic deterrent forces like a long-range surface-to-surface missile," he said.

Chang Li-teh (張立德), an editor of the Defense Technology Monthly magazine, said a long-range surface-to-surface missile usually has a range of more than 4,000km and is not a "decisive weapon" unless equipped with a nuclear warhead.

"A long-range missile of that kind will be wasted if it is used to attack land targets with conventional warheads," Chang said.

"To equip the missile with a nuclear warhead is another story. It looks impossible from the current technological capability of the military," he said.

"The long-range missile which Lien talked about is probably to be an upgraded version of the Sky Horse surface-to-surface missile, which the military developed in the 1970s on its own," he said.

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