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Sat, May 27, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Military testing on Taiwanese soil to be first of its kind allowed by US

STAFF WRITER WITH DPA

Taiwan will conduct a live-fire test of US Patriot missiles next September to prepare for building a missile shield against attack from China, the Central News Agency (CNA) said yesterday.

The test will be conducted at the Chiu Peng Base (九鵬基地) in Taitung, southeast Taiwan. The US will send personnel to Taiwan to monitor the test, CNA quoted an unnamed source at the Ministry of National Defense as saying.

"Other buyers of Patriot [missiles], like Japan, conducted live-fire tests in the US, so Taiwan will be the first country allowed to conduct the live-fire test on its own soil," CNA said.

The PAC-2, which is being developed by the US Army and Raytheon, will be capable of colliding with an attacking missile in flight. PAC-2, however, is no longer in production.

"The US sent a military team to Taiwan in 1998 and 1999 to assess the feasibility of conducting live-fire tests in Taiwan. They praised Taiwan's missile troops, calling them the best in the world," it said.

Taiwan has acquired 200 PAC-2 missiles, upgraded versions of the Patriots used by US forces during the 1991 Gulf War, to protect the nation from attack by Chinese missiles. The Patriot is the only anti-missile system which has been tested in battle.

The defense ministry has asked to buy six batteries of the PAC-3 -- the improved version of the PAC-2, from the US, to deploy in central and southern Taiwan, CNA said.

The PAC-3 advanced missile is a "hit-and-kill" version of older anti-missile Patriots fired at Iraqi Scuds in the 1991 Gulf War.

The military refused to comment on the report, saying information about missile launches is classified.

The news comes on the heels of Taiwan's failed efforts to acquire Patriot missile-based Aegis-class destroyers from the US to counter threats from China's recent build-up of missiles.

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