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Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Satellite photos of China's bases prove outdated

EYE IN THE SKY The photos may not provide new information, but they may lead China to stop posturing

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The recent stir and subsequent calm that followed the release of satellite photos by a US organization last week may just be an overhyped brouhaha, military sources hinted yesterday.

A high-ranking official with the Ministry of National Defense, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was not optimistic about the significance of the recent release of satellite photos by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) several days ago.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, the official said, the photos are misleading since quite a high percentage of them were taken a decade ago.

The photos of Tamsui River, for instance, show the river as it was 10 years ago, vastly different from how the river looks now, the official said.

As for photos of military facilities in China, an intelligence official said very few of them provide the kind of information Taiwan is eager to obtain.

The images of an air base in Anhui Province's Wuhu (蕪湖) for Su-27 jet fighters show only the old runway of the airport, not a new one for the advanced fighter planes bought from Russia, the official said.

Both China's and Taiwan's armies are well aware at what times spy satellites will pass over their territories and both know how to deceive the "eyes in the sky," said the official.

Despite these facts, Su Chin-chiang (蘇進強), a military analyst at Nanhua University still praised the release of satellite photos as a helpful move for the promotion of peace in the Taiwan Strait.

"China may be a paper tiger. But whether it truly is one has to be found out through first-hand intelligence information. I am not sure whether Taiwan's military can get from the US all the information it wants to know about China," Su said.

The move and its potential follow-ups are very likely to lead to military transparency across the Taiwan Strait and the establishment of mutual trust mechanisms between the two sides, Su said.

The prospects are highly possible, Su said, if the myth of a "China threat" is demystified by sufficient media exposure using first-hand information about China's military developments.

"[The photos] were also expected to make Taiwan people become less scared of military threats from China. The `China threat' myth will sooner or later vaporize," Su said.

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