- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

The Bush administration is reviewing whether to send advanced air-to-air missiles that were purchased by Taiwan but not delivered because of fears of upsetting the military balance in the region, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The review follows intelligence reports indicating that China has deployed similar Russian-made missiles and recently test-fired the weapons.
Defense and State Department officials said senior administration policy-makers are reviewing the September 2000 decision to withhold AIM-120 missiles from delivery to Taiwan unless Beijing deployed a similar weapon.
One U.S. official said the administration is expected to approve sending the missiles to Taiwan but has not decided how quickly the transfer would take place.
In Taiwan, a senior military officer said his country will seek to have the AIM-120s delivered.
"We're ready for delivery of the AIM-120 missile," Maj. Gen. Peng Chin-ming, director of the Taiwanese air force's operations bureau, told reporters in Taipei on Tuesday. "The missile will be carried by the F-16 jet fighter."
A U.S. defense official said one factor is that the U.S. manufacturer's AIM-120 production schedule calls for building the first batch of Taiwan-bought missiles later this year. The soonest the 120 missiles purchased by Taiwan can be built is spring 2003, the official said.
The United States offered to sell Taipei up to 200 of the missiles and the supporting equipment for $150 million. Taiwanese pilots have been training on the use of AIM-120 missiles at a base in the United States.
One option is to speed the delivery by transferring existing missiles from the U.S. Air Force stockpiles and replacing those missiles next year, the defense official said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis said the AIM-120 missiles "are still in production."
"Our policy requires that these missiles not be delivered to Taiwan unless there is evidence China has a similar missile as part of its inventory," Cmdr. Davis said in an interview. "We have not made a decision" on whether the missiles will be sent, he said.
He declined to comment on reports of China's first test-firing last week of the Russian-made AA-12 Adder medium-range air-to-air missile, citing a policy of not discussing intelligence. The test was first reported earlier this week in The Washington Times.
Asked about the possibility of sending the missiles to Taiwan, Cmdr. Davis said the State Department is in charge of the policy that restricted delivery of the AIM-120.
A State Department spokesman had no comment.
Gen. Peng confirmed that China last week test-fired its new AA-12 missile. According to U.S. defense officials, two Russian-made Su-30 jets fired the weapons at target drones and hit the targets.
"We have all the information about the test-firing," Gen. Peng said, declining to provide further details.
Gen. Peng said Taiwan's air force has deployed two other air-to-air missiles in its arsenal, the Tien Chien-II, which is deployed on Taiwan's IDF fighters, and the French MICA missile, which is carried on Taiwan's French-made Mirage 2000 fighters.
"The Tien Chien-II has a maximum range of 60 kilometers and a maximum speed of Mach 4, while China's AA-12 has a shorter maximum range of 50 kilometers and a slower maximum speed of Mach 3," the general said. "The MICA has the same maximum range as the AA-12 but has a greater maximum speed of Mach 3.5," he said.
A Taiwanese defense official told the Taipei Times newspaper that the missile delivery would take place soon because the country's air force has finished preparations for storage and operation of the missiles.
Taiwan has about 150 F-16 jet fighters deployed at several bases throughout the island.
The Pentagon said in its original announcement that the sale "will not affect the basic military balance in the region." The statement made no mention that the missiles would be stored in the United States.
Gen. Peng said future war-fighting scenarios call for development of long-distance and precision-strike weapons.
The general said Taiwan's military has no intention of provoking the mainland but will "learn from the enemy" by monitoring China's military buildup and increasing the military's combat training to maintain the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

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