China is expanding a missile base across from Taiwan where nearly 100 of Beijing's newest short-range missile systems will be deployed, increasing the threat to the island.
Construction at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) missile base at Yangang, some 275 miles from Taiwan, was photographed by U.S. spy satellites in mid-October, according to Clinton administration officials familiar with intelligence reports on the activity.
The officials said the construction is being carried out for the planned deployment of a brigade of advanced CSS-7 missiles - also known as advanced M-11s, officials told The Washington Times. A Chinese missile brigade is estimated to have 16 launchers and up to 96 missiles.
U.S. intelligence agencies expect the missiles deployed at the base to be the new CSS-7 Mod 2, which can carry several different types of warheads up to about 300 miles. The new missile was shown publicly for the first time Oct. 1 at the Communist Party's celebration in Beijing of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
The missiles can be armed with small nuclear warheads. China has obtained small-warhead technology from the United States through espionage.
According to Pentagon officials, the longer-range version of the CSS-7 is solid-fueled and deployed on road-mobile truck launchers, making them rapid-fire systems that are very hard to detect and track.
Pentagon officials said the new CSS-7s will be armed with conventional high-explosive warheads and have other high-tech payloads available.
Alternative conventional warheads are expected to include cluster bombs - warheads containing numerous bomblets; deep-penetrating warheads for use against concrete facilities; and exotic electromagnetic-pulse warheads that disrupt electronic devices ranging from cars to computers with a burst of energy similar to that produced in a nuclear blast.
The Chinese also have developed fuel-air explosives for the new missiles. Fuel-air explosives are high-explosive bombs that can destroy large areas, like airfields.
Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview earlier this month that the Chinese missile buildup is driving the United States to help Taiwan develop advanced missile defenses.
U.S. support for joint missile defense is allowed under the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows the United States to provide the island with adequate defenses against Chinese invasion.
"We're talking about a balance here," the admiral said earlier this month. "And a count of 500 or 600 [missiles] to very few defenses doesn't seem like a very good balance," he said. …