- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

China is fielding new advanced air-defense missiles opposite Taiwan that U.S. intelligence officials say will increase the danger of a military confrontation along the Taiwan Strait, The Washington Times has learned.
Construction of two new surface-to-air missile bases is being monitored closely by Pentagon spy agencies. When completed, they will bolster a base at Longtian, near Fuzhou, where several batteries of Russian-made S-300 missiles already are deployed.
The defensive missiles are part of an ongoing military buildup by the People's Liberation Army opposite Taiwan that includes the deployment of several hundred short-range offensive missiles. The Defense Intelligence Agency recently stated in a report that the offensive CSS-6 and CSS-7 missiles could knock out most of Taiwan's military bases with little or no warning.
Along with the Longtian missiles, additional S-300s will be set up near the coastal cities of Xiamen and Shantou in the next several weeks, the officials told The Times.
U.S. officials discussed some aspects of the new Chinese air-defense missile site construction on the condition of anonymity.
Disclosure of the latest Chinese missile activity came as the White House announced yesterday that National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger will travel to Beijing today for talks with Chinese leaders. "Taiwan will come up," said one official familiar with plans for the visit.
The S-300 missiles, although used for air defense, enhance China's ability to attack Taiwan because the systems provide protection for Chinese offensive missile forces and aircraft, the officials said.
"The S-300s have a much greater range, are faster and carry bigger warheads" than the SA-2 missiles now deployed along the coast, said one defense official. "They are much harder to avoid for pilots."
The S-300s double the range of China's force of SA-2s near Taiwan, allowing the missiles to strike Taiwanese warplanes much farther from the coast and before they cross the demarcation line running through the Taiwan Strait, according to the officials.
The added range increases the danger of a confrontation, said the officials. Chinese and Taiwanese fighter planes have flown large numbers of missions close to the demarcation line since last summer in the most visible sign of increased tensions.
Relations between China and Taiwan worsened after statements by Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui last year. Mr. Lee said ties should be based on state-to-state relations. Beijing interpreted the remarks as a step toward independence, which Chinese officials said would lead to war.
The current surface-to-air batteries are unable to hit aircraft until they are within a few miles of the coastline.
The S-300 missiles also give Chinese forces greater capability to attack U.S. sea-launched cruise missiles and aircraft, should the United States be called upon to defend Taiwan against a mainland attack.
The S-300s, also known as SA-10s by the Pentagon, are Russia's most modern high-speed anti-aircraft missiles. They are replacing China's less-capable SA-2 missiles throughout the region.
According to the intelligence officials, the Chinese have six SA-2 missile sites near Taiwan. Those SA-2s are deployed at several airfields stretching from Fuzhou in the north to Zhangzhou, near Xiamen, as well as the military airfield at Liancheng, farther west.
China made a series of military threats against Taiwan in recent weeks leading up to the Taiwanese presidential elections. An official Beijing government white paper said the mainland would attack the island if Taiwan refuses to negotiate reunification.
Disclosure of the People's Liberation Army construction comes as the Clinton administration is debating whether to supply Taiwan with advanced weapons, including high-speed anti-radiation missiles called HARMs, which could be used against the new S-300s.
According to defense sources, the administration has decided against allowing Taiwan to purchase HARMs, which this year are part of Taipei's annual request for arms.
A decision on Taiwan's request is expected to be announced in the next several weeks.
A U.S. spy satellite photographed one of the new S-300 sites near Xiamen and Zhangzhou in November and the base was expected to become operational around this time, defense officials said.
Zhangzhou is a major Chinese air force base, where large numbers of H-5 fighter bombers and F-7 jets are based.
Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military and an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, said the Chinese air defense developments show the need for the United States to provide Taiwan with better U.S. weapons.
Mr. Fisher said China's air force recently purchased a number of advanced Su-30 warplanes from Russia that will be equipped with air-launched missiles, including anti-radar missiles similar to the HARM and other highly accurate U.S. air-launched missiles.
"The PLA is getting a long-range precision-attack missile, anti-radiation missiles and is deploying more long-range [surface-to-air] missiles at a time when the administration is refusing to sell Taiwan any systems that can counter these new weapons," Mr. Fisher said.
The failure to provide Taiwan with HARMs would be a violation of the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows the United States to sell defensive arms to Taiwan, Mr. Fisher said.
Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, said recently that China's missile buildup near Taiwan has created a destabilizing imbalance.
The United States has supplied Taiwan with some air-defense weapons, including Patriot anti-aircraft systems, E-2 airborne early warning planes, and older Nike, Hawk and Chaparral anti-aircraft missiles.
However, many officials in the administration are opposing sales of more advanced weapons, including HARMs and other missiles, early warning radar and four Aegis battle management-equipped warships that could provide a base for short-range missile-defense systems.
China's government has said it opposes the warship sales and any transfers of U.S. theater missile-defense systems.

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