Freeway landings do not forebode war, experts say

CROSS-STRAIT TENSIONS: Speculation has run rife that upcoming war games involving the Sun Yat-sen Freeway mean that trouble with China is coming soon


Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 3

Experts yesterday rejected speculation that the Hankuang No. 20 military exercises to be conducted this month on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway signal the possibility of a military engagement with China, calling the drills routine.

"The Hankuang exercises are routine military exercises. They always happen around this time of year. Also, Taiwan has been very transparent about this, not hiding any information. The drills are not aimed specifically at China either," said Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), vice president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

The local media yesterday quoted Zhu Xianlong (朱顯龍), a "Taiwan expert" at Beijing Union University, as saying that the military exercises to be conducted on the Jente (仁德) highway runway in Tainan were preparations for war.

Zhu was quoted as saying: "The authorities in Taiwan are preparing for war across the Taiwan Strait."

In addition, word that Beijing has plans to test three ballistic missiles by launching them from a launching site in Shanxi province came initially from ITAR-TASS, a Russian news agency, earlier this week. According to the local media, the report said that China planned to launch the missiles later this month -- the medium-range ballistic missile Dong Feng 21 (DF-21); the intercontinental ballistic missile Dong Feng 31 (DF-31); and the submarine-launched ballistic missile Julang-2 (JL-2).

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue (章啟月) told Chinese reporters on Tuesday during a press conference that she had heard nothing about plans to test-launch missiles.

Beijing's Xinhua News Agency has also recently reported on annual military exercises to be conducted on Fujian province's Dongshan Island later this month.

According to the report, "observers regard the exercise as a response to the tensions across the Taiwan Strait."

"These [exercises] are just routine military exercises that are executed in preparation for an attack. It's natural," said Lee Hua-chiu (李華球), a researcher at the Foreign and Security Policy group and the deputy secretary-general of the Friends of Hong Kong and Macau Association.