Missiles Bolstered Opposite Taiwan; New Shipment Tracked in China.(PAGE ONE)
Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
China delivered a new shipment of missiles to bases near Taiwan last week as part of a mounting buildup under way since the beginning of the year, U.S. intelligence officials said.
"It is a concern," said one official familiar with intelligence reports of the missile deployments. The official said the stepped-up deployments are "not surprising" to U.S. intelligence agencies, which have been monitoring the increases for the past several years.
Disclosure of the latest missile shipment comes as China's Vice President Hu Jintao began his first visit to the United States on Saturday in Hawaii. Mr. Hu, considered the Communist Party choice to succeed President Jiang Zemin, will meet President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney this week.
It could not be learned whether U.S. officials will discuss the missile buildup opposite Taiwan during Mr. Hu's visit. The Chinese vice president, however, is expected to repeat China's opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a senior U.S. official said.
According to intelligence officials, the latest shipment was identified at a Chinese railway station near Lianxiwang, where a major nuclear missile base is located.
The shipment included eight rail cars bearing missile canisters. The missiles are believed to be CSS-6 Mod 2 missiles that are headed for short-range missile bases at Leping and Fuzhou.The new missiles are expected to replace or augment older CSS-6s currently deployed there, the officials said.
The new missiles are the fifth or sixth delivery since the beginning of the year and follow increased Chinese government anger at the Bush administration for increasing political and military support to Taiwan.
"China is continuing to deploy - and in fact has accelerated recently - its deployment of missiles which range Taiwan," Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told reporters in Hong Kong April 18.
An intelligence official said the missile shipments to areas within range of Taiwan have increased the danger to the island, which Beijing views as a breakaway province.
"These missiles are 7 1/2 minutes flight-time from Taiwan," said a second intelligence official. The short flight time is what worries U.S. defense and intelligence officials, the source said, adding that the missiles are destabilizing the region and pose a threat to Taiwan.
China in 1996 had fewer than 50 short-range missiles within striking distance of Taiwan. Today, U.S. intelligence estimates that China's military forces have more than 350 missiles in the region.
Adm. Blair said the missile buildup is worrying and could lead to the future sale of missile defenses to Taiwan.
"The missile balance across the Taiwan Strait is also of concern," Adm. Blair said. The four-star admiral, who will be leaving the post next month, said the missiles "can cause a great deal of destruction to Taiwan. …