- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

China recently test-fired a new cruise missile with twice the range U.S. intelligence agencies initially estimated, intelligence officials say.

The test comes as Chinese Communist officials last week appointed a top general in charge of China's missile buildup to a new post within the leadership that runs the military.

China fired a YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missile from a JH-7 fighter-bomber earlier this month over Bohai Bay, off northern China.

The test results surprised U.S. intelligence officials. Until recently, the estimated range of the YJ-83 had been assessed to be about 75 miles. The new missile test showed that its range is about 155 miles.

The last time the missile was tested was July 4, when the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, announced the testing of a beyond-visual-range anti-ship missile. This weapon is believed by Pentagon officials to be part of Beijing's efforts to develop a long-range strike capability against U.S. aircraft carriers and ships.

Officials say the missile represents a new capability for the Chinese military in conducting "over-the-horizon" attacks on U.S. or allied ships in any conflict with China. The YJ-83 is believed to be a derivative of the C-801 anti-ship cruise missile but can travel at supersonic speeds, making it very difficult for ships to stop.

Defense specialists say the YJ-83, sometimes called the C-803, also has the capability to receive target information in flight

Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military with the Jamestown Foundation, said the new YJ-83 will probably be outfitted on the upgraded JH-7a fighter-bomber.

"With a range of 250 km [155 miles], it gives the PLA and its export clients a new anti-ship missile that can fire beyond the reach of U.S. Naval anti-aircraft missiles like the Standard SM-2, which will soon equip Taiwan's Kidd-class destroyers," Mr. Fisher said.

"This test also indicates that longer-range land-attack cruise missiles are just around the corner," he noted.

China announced major leadership changes last week that elevated new leaders to many Communist Party posts. However, outgoing Chinese President Jiang Zemin stayed on as chairman of the Party's Central Military Commission, the powerful organ that controls the military.

The commission was used by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989 to bypass deadlocked government and party structures in ordering Chinese military forces to attack unarmed civilian protesters who had occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Hu Jintao, who was named the new Chinese party leader, was reappointed last week as a vice chairman of the military commission.

Additionally, two generals were named commission vice chairmen: Gen. Guo Boxiong and Gen. Cao Gangchuan. Both generals are proteges of Mr. Jiang, who promoted them when he was party leader.

Gen. Cao is expected to become China's defense minister, replacing Gen. Chi Haotian, in the next several months. His appointment is viewed by U.S. intelligence analysts as a sign that China's major military buildup will increase under his leadership.

Officials said Gen. Cao's promotion within the commission is significant; as head of the General Armament Department he was the official in charge of China's missile development and other weapons-modernization programs.

Gen. Guo was an aide to Gen. Fu Quanyou, the chief of the Chinese general staff, who lost his post on the Central Military Commission. Gen. Guo is expected to replace Gen. Zhang Wannian, who ran the military commission until the recent leadership changes.


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