Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military plans on low-altitude missile defense system

CNA , TAIPEI

The military has developed plans for a low-altitude missile defense system in the face of China's intensified missile deployment against Taiwan, Minister of National Defense Tang Yiau-min (湯曜明) said yesterday.

Tang made the remarks during a visit to the DPP's legislative caucus to seek its support for bills proposed by the ministry.

Tang said China's deployment of 400-plus ballistic missiles along its southeastern coast has posed a grave threat to the safety of the nation.

"The military is concerned about the threat and has taken steps to build a missile shield to safeguard national security," Tang said, adding that a comprehensive low-altitude missile defense system has been drawn up and will be completed gradually.

Touching on North Korea's test-firing of an anti-ship missile into the Sea of Japan Monday, Tang said he thought that the move was basically part of Pyongyang's routine military training exercises.

"North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles Monday afternoon. One succeeded, but the other failed. It also fired short-range land-to-sea missiles into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan at roughly the same time in 2001 and 2002. Judging from this we think that the latest test-firing was part of its routine military training drills," Tang said.

While the world is concerned about Pyongyang's move, Tang said, it should also pay heed to China's missile deployment targeting Taiwan.

As to media reports that a senior US Pentagon official will visit next month to discuss arms deals, Tang said the government has institutionalized arms procurement procedures.

"We'll discuss and coordinate with US authorities about arms acquisition, but it's up to us to decide our purchase list," Tang said.

Asked whether the visiting Pentagon official will discuss issues regarding Taipei's participation in the US-initiated theater missile defense (TMD) system, Tang said that for the sake of regional security and stability, the nation looks forward to the development of a TMD system.

"We'll conduct a careful evaluation before making a decision on whether to join the system," he said.

Sources said the US government thinks that acquiring Lockheed Martin Corp's Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) anti-missile system should be a top priority to meet the threat from the 650 or so ballistic missiles it is estimated that Beijing will have targeted Taiwan by 2005.

Another top priority should be upgrading the nation's combat telecommunications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- the so-called "C4ISR" capabilities and infrastructure that are the electronic brains of national command and control, the sources said.

PFP Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁芳) said the military must evaluate the military arsenals and political relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait when considering whether to buy the PAC-3 anti-missile defense systems.

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