Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

China embraces long-range missiles

MILITARY THREAT Beijing hopes long-range missiles will further its intimidation tactics as they are more destructive and less susceptible to anti-missile systems

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

China intends to use long- and medium-range ballistic missiles against Taiwan in the future while reducing or removing short-range ballistic missiles deployed in coastal provinces, defense sources said yesterday.

The long- and medium-range missiles that China might use against Taiwan include the Dong Feng-31, which has a range of 8,000km, and the Dong Feng-21, which has a range of 2,000km.

Both missiles feature multiple warheads and high flight speeds, making it virtually impossible to intercept them with anti-ballistic missile systems.

The longer-range missiles have been chosen as weapons in any attack against Taiwan because of their greater destructive power and their ability to beat any existing anti-missile system.

As they become more important to China as tools to intimidate Taiwan, the short-range missiles deployed in Fujian Province are facing possible reduction or removal.

A defense source said former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) took the initiative to propose that Beijing remove its short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan in exchange Washington's agreement to stop selling weapons to Taiwan.

"The proposal was not accepted either by Taiwan or the US. But it signifies that China has already been prepared for a possible removal of the missiles targeting Taiwan," the source said. "It also means that China no longer counts on these missiles as the only weapons to intimidate Taiwan."

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) has warned in an indirect way that China's longer-range missiles are tangible threats to the country. Tang made the warning during meetings of the defense committee of the legislature in the last session.

The military had refused to admit to the possibility that China might consider using ICBMs or medium-range ballistic missiles against Taiwan, arguing it wouldn't use the weapons against an enemy of the same ethnic origin or because the longer-range missiles are too expensive to be wasted on Taiwan.

But information gathered in recent years shows that China intends to use longer-range missiles against Taiwan for a variety of reasons.

The short-range missiles have limited the economic progress of coastal regions and are more susceptible to pre-emptive strikes.

In Fuzhou, for instance, the development of the city had been restricted because of preparations for war against Taiwan. But in the past two years the city has allowed the construction of taller buildings. The change is due to the disappearance of regular troops in the city, most of whom have been transferred to the armed police corps.

As China focuses on developing the economy of its coastal provinces, it now tends to avoid any possible face-to-face confrontation with Taiwan, preferring to use long-range missiles as less visible but more effective tools of intimidation.

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