The Defense Intelligence Agency has discovered a second Chinese short-range missile base under construction near Taiwan that will significantly increase the threat against the island, The Washington Times has learned.
Disclosure of the first missile base by The Times on Nov. 23 prompted an angry exchange between Taiwan and China. Taiwanese Defense Minister Tang Fei said the missiles at Yongan, 220 miles from the island, “are apparently aimed at us.” In Beijing, a government spokesman defended the missile buildup as defensive and said reports about it had “ulterior motives.”
The newest base, Xianyou, is nearly complete. It will contain a “brigade-size” force of short-range missiles. The Xianyou missile complex is closer to the Chinese coast than the Yongan site and only 135 miles from Taiwan.
In a report last month to Pentagon officials, the DIA said the two missile bases are being readied for deployment of hundreds of advanced Chinese missiles known as the CSS-7 Mod 2.
U.S. intelligence officials clarified the location of the first missile base as Yongan, not Yangang, as initially reported by The Times.
The Pentagon estimates each missile base will have a brigade of 16 truck launchers and 97 CSS-7 mobile missiles with a range of 300 miles. The intelligence report said the Chinese are building tunnels to store the missiles.
The report concludes that the new missile bases will allow China “to target all of Taiwan’s major military bases,” said a Pentagon official who has seen the classified report.
“These locations put most of Taiwan within range of CSS-7 missiles,” said the official. The DIA estimates the Chinese have deployed 40 CSS-7s and are working toward deployment of 500 short-range missiles by 2005.
“They will be able to take Taiwan with little or no warning,” said another defense official.
The report is based on satellite photographs and other sensitive intelligence. The layout of the new bases is similar to one at Leping, where China has a brigade of older, CSS-6 short-range mobile missiles.
Leping, about 362 miles from Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, was described as the “brigade headquarters” for all People’s Liberation Army missile units near Taiwan.
Leping-based missile units fired the missiles that landed north and south of Taiwan during large-scale military exercises in 1996.
The Chinese missile buildup near Taiwan is the result of war-fighting plans of the People’s Liberation Army and is not connected to Taiwan’s plans to deploy missile defenses, the officials said.
“Chinese missiles will be able to overwhelm any planned Taiwan missile-defense system in the not-too-distant future,” said one official.
A Pentagon official said the missile buildup is “destabilizing… . It increases the chances Beijing will use force and it decreases the chance that Beijing will compromise politically in future talks with Taiwan.”
Pentagon officials also fear the buildup will prompt Taiwan to change its defensive posture to an offensive missile force of its own, including the prospect that the technologically advanced nation will decide to develop nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to counter the Chinese threat.
Taiwan abandoned any drive for nuclear arms several years ago at U.S. urging, according to U.S. officials.
William Triplett, author of “Red Dragon Rising,” a new book on China, said the missile buildup comes at a time when the Clinton administration is “dragging its feet” with regard to allowing the sale of advanced missile-warning radar to Taiwan.
“The missile buildup is destabilizing and is very likely to drive the Taiwanese into matching it with their own home-grown nuclear forces,” Mr. Triplett said in an interview.
The CSS-7 Mod 2s the DIA says will be deployed at the new bases are longer-range versions of missiles also known as M-11s. The CSS-6s deployed on mobile launchers at Leping are also known as M-9s.
The new CSS-7 was first shown in public during the Oct. 1 military parade in Beijing marking the Chinese Communist Party’s 50th anniversary.
The advanced CSS-7s are expected to carry several types of warheads, including high-explosive, cluster bombs and fuel-air explosives.
The missiles also can be equipped with small nuclear warheads, including the small Chinese nuclear warhead that the CIA believes was built with technology gathered by Chinese spies on the U.S. W-88 warhead.
Tensions between China and Taiwan have been high since last summer, when Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui announced that talks with the mainland should be based on “state-to-state” relations.
The remarks were viewed by Beijing as a step toward independence. China regards Taiwan as a province and has threatened to use force to retake the island, which became the base for nationalist forces after China’s civil war in the 1940s.
A spokeswoman for the DIA said the agency had nothing to say about the Chinese missile threat beyond what Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said in a February report to Congress.
The report said that China’s growing short-range missile force is a potent weapon that can be used either for combat or as a strategic weapon to influence relations with Taiwan.
By 2005, the Chinese will have fielded two types of short-range ballistic missiles and a new type of land-attack cruise missile, the report said.