- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

China conducted the second flight test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile last month and is preparing for the third test in the next few weeks, a sign Beijing is accelerating its long-range missile program, The Washington Times has learned.
The flight test of the DF-31 missile was carried out in early November during the visit to China by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pentagon officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"This test and plans for the next one show they are moving ahead with their road-mobile long-range missile program," said one Pentagon official familiar with reports of the test.
Defense analysts said the timing of the test during the four-star general's trip appeared to be a deliberate political signal to the United States.
The test took place during a three-day visit to China by Gen. Shelton from Nov. 3 to 5. The general observed live-fire Chinese military drills near the southern city of Nanjing.
During the visit, Chinese military officials repeated Beijing's vehement opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
A Taiwanese military delegation is scheduled to arrive in Washington in the next several days to present the Taipei government's annual arms purchase requests to the Pentagon.
The missile test so close to the U.S. presidential Election Day also was viewed by analysts as a signal to the next U.S. president of China's opposition to U.S. missile defense deployment.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush has said he favors deployment of a missile-defense shield to knock out long-range missiles. Vice President Al Gore has criticized Mr. Bush's missile-defense plans and has not indicated clearly his position on deployment. President Clinton rejected deploying a missile-defense system earlier this year.
White House spokesman P.J. Crowley declined to comment on the details of the missile test, citing its policy on intelligence information.
However, Mr. Crowley sought to play down the threat posed by the DF-31. "The fact that the Chinese have a new missile, the DF-31, under development is well known," he said. "They have publicly indicated for some time an intention to modernize their strategic forces."
The CIA has said that the DF-31 and a longer-range version, the DF-41, will be the first Chinese missiles to incorporate U.S. nuclear weapons design information obtained through espionage, namely smaller warheads.
The new missiles also are expected to incorporate U.S. missile technology obtained illegally from the United States through commercial space cooperation, according to intelligence officials.
Unlike the last DF-31 test in August 1999, the November test was not made public by the Chinese government. It was disclosed to The Times by defense officials.
The flight test was carried out from the Wuzhai Missile and Space Center, some 250 miles north of Beijing. The flight path of the test ICBM could not be learned. The last test, however, was conducted within Chinese territory and involved several decoy warheads an indication of China's intention to increase the DF-31's capability to defeat missile defenses.
Officials said U.S. intelligence reports indicated the missile test was successful.
China in recent months has increased its threatening rhetoric against the United States. A Chinese government white paper issued in October described the United States as a global menace bent on "gunboat" power politics. It called the situation in the Taiwan Strait "grim."
In February, the official military newspaper Liberation Army Daily warned in a blunt commentary that Beijing would resort to "long distance" missile strikes on the United States during a regional conflict over Taiwan.
"This is another warning shot in the political campaign China has sponsored over the past two years against deployment of a U.S. national missile defense," Michael Pillsbury, a former Reagan administration defense specialist on China, said of the latest missile test.
Mr. Pillsbury, in his recent book of translations of Chinese military writings, stated that China's strategy is to use its small but growing nuclear forces to threaten the United States with nuclear attack as a way to prevent U.S. military defense of Taiwan in any conflict with China.
The CIA reported last year that China's current long-range missile force includes 13 missiles targeted on the United States.
Richard Fisher, a China military specialist with the Jamestown Foundation, also said the latest DF-31 test is part of a propaganda campaign aimed at influencing U.S. policy-makers against deploying a missile defense.
"China is making maximum military-political use of its new nuclear missile capability," Mr. Fisher said. "The tests themselves are being used to target American decision makers as well as to target Taiwan's leadership to signal both that China's new missiles are intended to deter American support for Taiwan."
In 1996, China used short-range missile test firings north and south of Taiwan in an attempt to influence elections on the island. The United States responded by sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region in a major show of force.
Mr. Fisher predicts that the new DF-31 will become operational "in the very near future."
The Chinese will begin garrison deployment of the DF-31 in the period between 2005 and 2010, said Mr. Fisher, who recently returned from a visit to China.
"The tragedy of the Clinton years is that America has no missile-defense capability to counter China's anti-Taiwan missile capability," Mr. Fisher said.
Chinese military officials have stated in private and through the official press that Beijing is willing to use nuclear weapons against the United States to deter the U.S. military from backing Taiwan in a conflict.
The test, according to defense officials, highlights China's strategic nuclear military buildup, a modernization program that has been played down publicly by the Clinton administration to avoid upsetting the pro-China engagement policy.
The truck-mobile DF-31 was first tested on the ground in 1995 and again in 1998, when ejection tests were carried out firing the missile out of its launch tube.
After the first flight test, which took place Aug. 1, 1999, the Chinese government announced it had conducted a test launch of "a new type of long-range, ground-to-ground missile within its territory."

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