Taiwan Confirms Beijing's Intent to Deploy Missiles: Albright, China Mum on Targeting

Article excerpt

Taiwan's defense minister confirmed yesterday that China is preparing to deploy a brigade of its newest short-range missiles to be targeted against the island.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and a Chinese government spokesman, however, were silent on the growing missile threat.

Taiwanese Defense Minister Tang Fei told reporters in Taipei that his government is aware of the new missile deployment site several hundred miles from Taiwan.

"The information we gathered is close to the reports," Mr. Tang said in commenting on the missile base expansion that was first reported in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Times.

"The missiles are apparently aimed at us," he said. "We are keeping a close eye on the development."

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman would not talk about the buildup.

"We only have one simple comment concerning this report, and that is it is full of ulterior motives and not worth commenting on," a Chinese official told Agence France-Presse in Beijing.

Asked in Washington about The Times report, Mrs. Albright dismissed what she called "alleged leaks of intelligence information."

Clinton administration officials told The Times earlier this week that China is expanding a missile base located some 275 miles across the Taiwan Strait, where a brigade of up to 100 advanced M-11 missiles will be fielded.

U.S. intelligence agencies gathered satellite spy photographs of construction at the base near the town of Yangang in mid-October.

The missiles to be deployed were identified as CSS-7 Mod 2s that are mobile systems with a range of up to 300 miles - enough to hit targets throughout Taiwan. The missiles can be equipped with either conventional warheads or small nuclear warheads - warheads similar to the W-88 nuclear warheads deployed on advanced U.S. missiles and the warhead that is the focus of Chinese nuclear espionage.

"We continue to monitor the situation closely," Mrs. Albright said, noting that the administration has "made clear to the Chinese government, our concerns regarding Chinese missile developments and their influence on the situation in the Taiwan Strait."

"We have, over and over again, made clear our strong interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," she said. "And for this reason, we have approved defensive arms sales to Taiwan" according to U.S. laws.

Mr. Tang said the missile base expansion shows the need for Taiwan to develop missile-defense systems. …