Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 3 News List

US defense director highlights China missile threat

By Nadia Tsao  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Lieutenant General Michael Maples, the US Defense Intelligence Agency director, on Wednesday confirmed that China has deployed more than 1,000 ballistic missiles against Taiwan and developed more powerful missiles, with the range to reach all the facilities of the US and its allies in the region. He also said that Beijing may be seeking to operate an aircraft carrier.

In his report, entitled Current and Projected National Threats to the United States, to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Maples said that China had bought four Russian-built S-300 PMU-2 air defense battalions and intended to buy four more. "This increases its engagement range out to 200km," he said.

"China is developing a layered maritime capacity with medium-range anti-ship ballistic missiles, submarines, maritime strike aircraft and surface combatants armed with increasingly sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles," he said.

He added that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has already achieved "moderate success," and additional integration may accelerate as the PLA explores the full potential of such weapons.

"China is looking beyond a potential Taiwan contingency and is pursuing capabilities needed to become a major regional power. The navy already operates a large surface and an increasingly modern submarine fleet and may be seeking to operate an aircraft carrier," he said.

"Although China may not achieve a true regional power-projection capability in the next decade, it most likely will increase maritime patrols of disputed oil fields and its Exclusive Economic Zone," he said.

According to Maples, China's space and counterspace capabilities have "significant implications" for US space-based communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in a Taiwan Strait contingency and beyond.

"Citing its manned and lunar space programs, China is improving its ability to track and identify satellites -- a prerequisite for anti-satellite attacks," he said.

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