- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

Adm. Dennis C. Blair, commander of U.S. forces in Asia, said yesterday the United States is assessing Chinese military strength along the Taiwan Strait before deciding whether to sell advanced defense weaponry to Taiwan.
"I am not recommending" any specific weapons systems, Adm. Blair said. "No decision has been made."
The United States is legally bound to provide Taiwan "a sufficient means for defense" against any Chinese attempt to force reunification, Adm. Blair said at a meeting of government and private non-proliferation experts held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The United States is assessing the level of Chinese military capability and from that will determine the level of defensive weapons Taiwan requires, he said.
The admiral said China has 200 medium-range missiles opposite Taiwan and is adding about 50 each year. These are inaccurate "terror weapons" that could not target military assets, but in time would be upgraded to become more accurate.
A Republican congressional source said the administration was expected to provide Congress yesterday with a secret study of Chinese military strength along the Taiwan Strait, but the report had not been received late yesterday afternoon.
"In the face of a growing Chinese missile threat, the United States is bound to provide for [Taiwan's] legitimate defense needs," said the source, who asked not to be identified.
Taiwan and its supporters on Capitol Hill are seeking destroyers equipped with Aegis anti-aircraft radar systems, submarines, P-3 anti-submarine aircraft and AIM120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAM), said the source.
Republicans in Congress are urging the administration to provide most of these weapons except for the submarines, which could be seen by China as offensive rather than defensive weapons, the source said.
China is strongly opposed to the installation of a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system in East Asia aimed at protecting U.S. bases in Korea and Japan, but Adm. Blair said that opposition is based on a misconception.
"China thinks 'theater' means the entire theater of military operations," Adm. Blair said.
U.S. military planners, however, see TMD as "limited … to be used only against shorter-range classes of missiles."
Earlier at the conference, a Chinese diplomat attacked the missile-defense program, which is under research and development by the Clinton administration.
He Yefei, minister-counselor at the Chinese Embassy, also said, "We urge the United States and Russia to reduce their [nuclear] arsenals quickly."
China has between 27 and 32 nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the United States, according to a U.S. government source who asked not to be identified. The sources said the United States has 7,800 nuclear warheads that can reach China and Russia has 6,546.
Adm. Blair, who recently returned from meetings with Chinese leaders, said Asia has three flash points of concern to the U.S. military:
North Korea, which continues to observe a moratorium on missile tests, but continues to develop missiles and sell them "to all buyers."
The Taiwan Strait, where Chinese threats of an attack to force talks on reunification have created pressure amid a Taiwanese election.
Kashmir, where violence between India and Pakistan is increasing while both sides develop nuclear warheads and missiles.
One positive sign in the region is that most countries are building up air and naval forces instead of the land forces required for an invasion, said Adm. Blair, who is commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.
On the negative side, he noted that Russia, China, North Korea, India and Pakistan increasingly rely on the threat of nuclear missiles rather than conventional weapons, creating "brinkmanship rather than deterrence."

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