- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

China is continuing a destabilizing buildup of short-range missiles opposite Taiwan and now has up to 300 missiles deployed, according to a senior military official.

The senior official, who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, also said Russia is supplying China with advanced ballistic-missile technology and strategic nuclear warhead know-how.

"The candy store appears to be open," the official said. "The Russians will sell anything to the Chinese that the Chinese want to buy, and that's what bothers me."

On China's massing of short-range missiles, the official said Chinese military leaders have refused to draw down the force, despite U.S. protests that the missiles are increasing instability and the danger of conflict across the Taiwan Strait. "They keep on building," the official said.

He noted: "If the Chinese keep on doing what they're doing, we're going to make theater missile systems available to the Taiwanese.

Taiwan currently has deployed the most-advanced U.S. missile defense available, a version of the Patriot system known as GEM PAC-2. The systems are deployed around Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

Other more advanced regional missile defenses will be fielded with U.S. forces in the next several years.

Asked about growing Russian-Chinese military cooperation, the official said missile and nuclear warhead transfers are troubling.

Intelligence reports indicate the Russians have begun "helping Chinese ballistic missile programs and nuclear programs, which are of course targeted on Russia," the official said.

"It's one thing if they want to help [the Chinese] screw the United States, which is in their common interest right now, but this just seems to be mindless," the official said. "I think it's stupidity on the Russians' part; it is going to hurt them in the long term."

He said Russia's state-owned arms-export company, Rosvooruzheniye, is becoming China's major supplier.

China also is seeking to purchase an advanced airborne warning and control (AWAC) jet from Russia, after Israel canceled a similar deal at U.S. insistence in July.

On the missile buildup, the official said the growing numbers are only one aspect of the problem. The Chinese also are deploying highly accurate "precision" weapons in addition to older, inertially guided missiles.

"They are in the 200 to 300 category," the senior official said. "And just as important as the number, is the accuracy. Right now they are mostly inertial [guidance], which give them [circular error probabilities] in the Scud range. But they are working on more precision guidance, which will make a big difference."

Between 600 and 1,000 short-range missiles could be in place in the next several years.

The official said the United States has informed China it is considering sales to Taiwan of advanced Aegis-equipped warships. If the $1 billion warships are sold, they will be equipped with "fleet air defenses" capable of countering China's current arsenal of Sunburn anti-ship missiles and other anti-ship weapons, but they will not be outfitted with the Navy's two regional missile defense systems, which have not yet been fielded.

The Aegis-ships "would give the Taiwanese the ability to survive with their surface ships," he said.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and the building of a national missile defense systems are two issues expected to cloud U.S.-China ties, the official said.

However, China is not likely to increase the size of its strategic nuclear missile buildup in response to a U.S. missile shield, he said. "I see no indication that anything we do really affects the Chinese building program."

The missile buildup has been tracked by Pentagon intelligence agencies for the past several years. In 1998, China had fewer than 50 short-range missiles deployed near Taiwan, and in 1999 the number had increased to 150.

The senior official identified the missiles as CSS-6s and CSS-7s missiles also known by the designations M-9 and M-11, respectively. China unveiled an advanced CSS-7 Mod 2 in late 1999.

The missiles have enough range to hit targets in Taiwan with little or no warning. The lack of warning time increases the risk of conflict, U.S. military officials said.

Last year, the State Department privately protested Beijing's missile buildup, U.S. officials said. Publicly, the department has described the buildup as worrying and said it could lead to future sales of U.S. anti-missile defenses to Taiwan.

According to the senior military official, China's military remains backward by American standards but is building up its forces both strategic and conventional through purchases of high-technology arms, mostly from Russia.

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) views the United States as its main threat and is highlighting the perceived danger to win more funds for military programs.

"It's clear that the PLA, both because they believe it and because it's a wonderful bureaucratic strategy, continues to pump up the American threat," he said. "They clearly justify the requirements for increases in military budgets based on the Taiwan scenario, keeping the United States out, and damaging Taiwan. And they're having some success in getting budget increases."

China appears to be having problems integrating high-technology weapons, like domestic versions of the Russian Su-27, he said.

A recent Chinese military exercise in the South China Sea also revealed training tactics that are 20 to 30 years behind those carried out by the United States, he said.

The exercise, code-named Invincible Might, came as nations in Southeast Asia held talks to set up a code of conduct for regional militaries aimed at avoiding conflicts.

China's most visible recent military deployments include two Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers that are armed with supersonic SSN-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, and scores of Su-27s that can be equipped with advanced Russian A-12 guided missiles. They also have Badger bombers capable of carrying out missile attacks on ships.

China's forces could fight well on their territory but would be no match for the United States in a conflict over Taiwan, he said.

Chinese military officials, in talks with U.S. counterparts, have been urged not to consider a conflict with the United States because "we know how that one is going to end," the official said. "There's going to be a lot of bloodshed and there is going to be no change at the end of the day."

The U.S. strategy has been to try to involve China in regional forums and exercises as a way to prevent Beijing from resorting to bullying tactics, the official said.

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