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Sat, May 27, 2000 - Page 4 News List

MND seeks to allay fear of exercises

DON'T WORRY Saying the same kind of exercises in the same places using the same equipment have taken place before, the military yesterday sought to to calm public fears

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said there will be two follow-up drills in mid-June to the ongoing live-fire artillery tests by Chinese troops in seas close to Taiwan's frontline outpost on Kinmen.

At an emergency press conference called yesterday morning, the defense ministry said that although the artillery exercises will not be completed until the end of June, they are routine in nature and are not directed against Taiwan.

"The Ministry of National Defense is sure about the nature of the artillery exercises by the Chinese because the weapons to be tested in the drills do not have a range of over 40km," said Major General Chao Lien-ti (趙連弟), assistant deputy chief of the general staff for information.

"The target zone announced by the Chinese troops is between Quanzhou and Shenhu Bays in Fujian Province, 34km to the northeast of Kinmen and 76km south of Wuchiu islands," Chao said.

To further prove his words, Chao cited a list of similar routine artillery tests by the Chinese over over the past five years in Fujian, which faces Taiwan.

"Similar tests had been held in Tungshan and Lienjiang in 1997 and 1998, respectively, and four times in Quanzhou from 1996 to 1999," Chao said.

"Under the right weather conditions, people on Kinmen can hear the sounds of artillery fire coming from the exercise area between 8am and 8pm, every day. But so far, no reports of this kind have been made," he said.

Chao also described in detail what kind of artillery the People's Liberation Army will use in the live-fire exercises.

"The artillery to be used is of the 155mm, 152mm, and 122mm caliber. These three types of cannon have a range of 39km, 32km, and 21km, respectively.

Judging from the target zone announced by the Chinese, we can be sure that the impact areas will not go beyond a diamond-shaped zone of 32km in length and 24km in width," Chao said.

Following the detailed briefing made by Chao, ministry spokesman Major General Kung Fan-ding (孔繁定) assured the public that the Chinese exercises are being carried out according to their training schedule and that they do not pose any threat to Taiwan.

Despite efforts by Taiwan's defense ministry to brush off reports of belligerent motives behind the exercises, Chinese officials on Thursday warned leaders in Taiwan not to do anything detrimental to people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese foreign ministry also reiterated their stance on not abandoning the option to use force against Taiwan.

Meanwhile, officials with Taiwan's defense ministry confirmed the scheduled annual Hankaung No. 16 joint-forces exercise will take place in northern parts of Taiwan in August and not in June as the media had initially speculated.

"Holding the exercise in June will invite unnecessary attempts to interpret its possible motives. We don't want the exercise to be associated with any political implications.

"We just want to hold it as a basis to test the combat readiness of our troops," defense officials said.

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