- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 1999

China has begun construction of a new air-defense missile site near Taiwan that the Pentagon views as part of Beijing's military buildup near the island, according to defense officials.
A U.S. spy satellite photographed construction of the surface-to-air missile base in late November near the coastal city of Zhangzhou, about 175 miles due west of Taiwan, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The exact type of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to be deployed at the base is not known. However, Pentagon intelligence agencies believe the SAM site will have either Russian-design SA-10s or China's indigenous CSA-1s.
The SA-10 is considered by Pentagon officials to be an advanced air-defense system capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and some ballistic missiles as far as 62 miles away. The systems are transportable and usually deployed in batteries of several launchers, each loaded with four missiles and tracking radar vehicles.
"They will be operational in the spring," said one official familiar with missile-construction reports.
Reports of the air-defense construction come amid growing tensions between Taiwan and the mainland over other military developments.
Taiwan's government announced this month that it might build long-range missiles to counter China's buildup of up to 600 short-range missiles at bases near Taiwan.
The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency reported to senior U.S. officials two weeks ago that China is building up its short-range missiles at two new bases near Taiwan that will give Beijing new attack capabilities.
Scores of new CSS-7 missiles will be deployed at the bases Xianyou and Yongan, and a third base further away at Leping already has CSS-6 missiles. Together, the bases will be able to fire missile barrages that can strike all of Taiwan's military bases with little or no warning, the DIA said.
The surface-to-air missiles at Zhangzhou are part of efforts to defend a major air base for the People's Liberation Army, which has been flying its warplanes close to the line of separation that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Strait.
China recently completed the deployment of 24 H-5 fighter bombers and six F-7 jets to Zhangzhou as part of the increased flights over the Taiwan Strait, the officials said. The jets returned to their home bases, although several F-8 reconnaissance aircraft remained based there.
Since July, when China reacted harshly to statements made by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui about Taiwan's status as a "state," Chinese and Taiwanese jets have been engaged in a war of nerves over the strait.
President Clinton told reporters this month that the Chinese military is "modernizing … in a lot of ways." He said, however, that the dispute between the mainland and Taiwan must be resolved through "cross-strait dialogue" and that "we oppose and would view with grave concern any kind of violent action."
The president spoke in response to reports of the missile buildup that first appeared in The Washington Times.
Raymond F. Burghardt, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the official U.S. government officer there, said in a speech Friday that the United States is closely watching China's buildup near Taiwan.
"We are well aware of [the People's Republic of China's] efforts to upgrade its military capability, and we understand Taiwan's concerns about being a target of that upgraded capability," he said. "We have noted the PRC's increased deployment of short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan in recent years."
Mr. Burghardt said the buildup affects the decisions Washington makes about relations with China and Taiwan.
The United States, he noted, has helped Taiwan's air defenses by supplying E-2 airborne early-warning aircraft, Nike, HAWK and Chaparral anti-aircraft missiles and Patriot-type anti-aircraft missiles, along with 150 F-16 fighters.
Taiwan's Perry-class frigates also are armed with U.S. SM-1 standard anti-aircraft missiles "for protection of sea lines of communication."
However, Mr. Burghardt said the United States has not decided to provide Taiwan with anti-missile systems to counter the short-range missile threat.
Regional anti-missile defenses are "very much in the conceptualization and development stage," he said.
"Deployment is years away," he said. "We have briefed Taiwan, as we have other friends, on [theater missile defense]. We do not preclude providing TMD to Taiwan, but it is premature to make that decision now. And we must remember above all, TMD or any other military solution will not be the only or even the most important factor in ensuring Taiwan's future security."
Asked about the construction of a new surface-to-air missile base, Chinese Embassy press counselor Yu Shuning said such stories are part of an effort to highlight "the so-called China threat."
"As a sovereign state, we have the right to deploy weapons and armed forces within our territory," Mr. Yu said. "I don't think anyone would ask the U.S. government for information about its development of weapons in Alaska."
"We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, and we do not accept interference in our internal affairs," he said.
Mr. Yu said any inclusion of Taiwan within U.S. regional missile defenses would be "a gross encroachment on China's sovereignty."

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