Thursday, September 1, 2005

China’s government issued a report yesterday criticizing the development of regional missile defenses in Asia and opposing U.S. efforts to help Taiwan counter Beijing’s missiles targeting the island.

“As the Taiwan question involves its core interests, China opposes the attempt by any country to provide help or protection to the Taiwan region of China in the field of missile defense by any means,” the report stated.

The report was issued days before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Washington for meetings with President Bush. Mr. Hu is expected to press the president to curb arms sales to Taiwan.

The report said Asian missile defenses will “erode trust.”

U.S. officials said the statements appeared aimed at thwarting Pentagon plans to sell Taiwan six Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems, along with eight submarines and 12 P-3 anti-submarine aircraft.

Defense officials say missile defenses for Taiwan are needed to counter a steady buildup of short-range missiles opposite Taiwan. More than 750 missiles now are within range of the island.

The Chinese report said China opposes all missile defenses because of concerns it will upset strategic stability. Beijing wants “political and diplomatic” solutions instead of missile defenses, the report said. “Research, development and deployment of missile defense systems are by no means an effective way to solve the problem.”

China wants “relevant countries” — a reference to the United States and Japan — to “increase transparency in their missile defense program for the purpose of deepening trust and dispelling misgivings,” the report said.

Japan has announced that it plans to deploy missile defenses by 2009. Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), said in 2001 that Taiwan hopes to set up joint missile defenses with Japan and the United States.

A Bush administration official said the report appears to be a Chinese government propaganda effort to counter growing concerns in Asia over the Chinese arms and missile buildup.

Last week, China held large-scale military exercises with Russia that included mock seaborne and airborne attacks and anti-submarine operations that U.S. officials said simulated a conflict against Taiwan.

In addition to opposing missile defenses, the report said, China is cutting its military forces and will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.

Chinese Gen. Zhu Chenghu has said that China will be forced to use nuclear attacks on U.S. cities in any conflict over Taiwan because of China’s weaker conventional forces.

The report also says China is working to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missiles, a claim contradicted by a CIA report. The CIA’s semiannual report to Congress on proliferation stated that continued Chinese arms and technology sales to rogue states is a “great concern.”

The Pentagon has deployed a limited missile defense system with six interceptors that could stop a missile attack from North Korea but would be overwhelmed by a strike from China’s 20 long-range nuclear missiles.

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