- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

Chinese military forces carried out a flight test of a medium-range nuclear missile this week as the finale to China's largest nationwide war games in years, The Washington Times has learned.
A CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile was fired from a test facility in northern China on Tuesday and tracked by U.S. military satellites to an impact area near the Mongolian border. The missile had a dummy warhead.
The launch coincided with the end of four months of large-scale military exercises that included amphibious-landing drills near Taiwan, long-range bomber maneuvers and information-warfare exercises by the Chinese military, according to U.S. defense officials.
While Dongshan island near Taiwan has been the scene of most of the exercises, Chinese military forces also conducted war games in other coastal locations and inland, said officials familiar with intelligence reports. "We have been seeing military operations all along the Chinese coast," said one intelligence official.
The exercises are the largest war games in recent years, involving tens of thousands of Chinese troops along with ships, tanks, aircraft and missiles.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the missile test.
The flight test was anticipated. U.S. intelligence agencies in the past two weeks spotted a CSS-2 erected on a mobile launcher several times, officials said.
The CSS-2, a liquid-fuel missile with a range of about 1,922 miles, is used to target Russia and India, according to an Air Force intelligence report produced several years ago.
The Chinese have about 40 mobile CSS-2 launchers.
The CSS-2 is being replaced with a shorter-range missile known as the CSS-5, according to the report.
Intelligence officials said the CSS-2 test preparations were photographed by a U.S. spy satellite.
A defense official said the exercises have been watched "extremely carefully" by the U.S. military and that they were significantly larger than past maneuvers.
"This has been an unprecedented use of military exercises to send a propaganda message to Taiwan," the defense official said.
The Dongshan exercises included a mock invasion of Taiwan with scores of ships and thousands of troops, the official said.
Peter Rodman, the assistant defense secretary in charge of Asian affairs, said earlier in the week that the exercises were not unusual.
Mr. Rodman said he did not see "an imminent threat of a conflict" from the maneuvers.
"They have done exercises on a regular basis," Mr. Rodman told reporters. "I'm sure they learned something from it. You know, they're modernizing their forces. They're exercising their forces."
The Pentagon is closely watching the war games "and perhaps we can learn something from that exercise, too," Mr. Rodman said.
A bomber division near Guangzhou, in southern China, conducted mock bombing raids using B-6 bombers, defense officials said. The exercises also were disclosed in China's military newspaper.
The B-6s flew long-range strike missions in early August against mock enemy targets.
The bombers also demonstrated China's new midair-refueling capability, which has extended the combat radius of its bombers, U.S. officials said.
Other exercises including paratroop drops at coastal locations, the officials said.
China also practiced carrying out computer attacks and defenses against such attacks during one part of the exercises, defense officials said.
China is building up its capacity for such "information warfare" and views the capability as a key strategic advantage in any future conflict with the United States over Taiwan, the officials said.
One unique feature of the Dongshan island war games was the use of commercial ships in military operations, the officials said. More than a dozen commercial ships, including freighters, were equipped with various artillery on decks and at least one carried multiple-rocket launchers.
The unorthodox outfitting of commercial ships with artillery is an indication that China's military is building up its naval forces in preparation for a future attack on Taiwan.
"The public display of artillery and tanks on merchant ships may look silly, but its not," said Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military with the private Jamestown Foundation.
"It is meant to exercise unconventional invasion methods, such as the conscription of hundreds or thousands of civilian merchant and fishing ships for an invasion of Taiwan. It conveys serious intent."
Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province, although the Taipei government considers itself the capital of the Republic of China. China has vowed to use force if necessary to retake the island.
Mr. Fisher said the flight test should not be discounted because the missile is one of China's older strategic weapons.
"Just because the CSS-2 is old doesn't mean it doesn't pose a threat to the United States or Taiwan," he said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide