By Richard Halloran – China has deployed far more missiles aimed at Taiwan than previously reported, according to U.S. officials with access to intelligence assessments.
The officials say China has 1,400 ballistic missiles targeting the self-governing island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
That is 40 percent more than earlier U.S. reports saying about 1,000 missiles were deployed across the strait from Taiwan.
The Pentagon, in its recent report on Chinese military power, said 990 to 1,070 missiles were pointed at Taiwan, including variants “with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads.”
President Chen Shui-bian, who is to step down on May 20 when President-elect Ma Ying-jeou is inaugurated, said recently that China had deployed 1,328 missiles at Taiwan.
U.S. officials have declined to confirm Mr. Chen’s numbers on the record. But Washington has expressed growing concern over China’s military buildup and the threat it poses to Taiwan.
“The threat that China poses is increasing, in my opinion, for the folks who are our friends in Taiwan,” Adm. Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told Congress earlier this month.
While avoiding discussion of operational plans to respond to the threat, Adm. Keating said his Pacific Command was “adequately resourced” to meet U.S. requirements.
He pointed to two aircraft carrier battle groups, six B-52 and three B-2 bombers deployed to Guam in the western Pacific, and a new addition to the Pacific Fleet, the submarine Ohio, which is armed with 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The U.S. has long insisted that the future of Taiwan be settled peaceably, while Chinese leaders have repeatedly asserted that China would resort to military force to conquer the island if the government in Taipei declared formal independence.
The officials who produced the updated missile number have had long experience in dealing with the China-Taiwan dispute.
In its recent report on China’s military power, required annually by the Congress, the Pentagon said, “China has the most active ballistic missile program in the world.”
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range ballistic missiles to garrisons opposite Taiwan.
“It is increasing the size of this force at a rate of more than 100 missiles per year,” the Pentagon said.
Further, the Pentagon said, “the PLA is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate cruise missiles,” such as ground-launched land attack cruise missiles, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and anti-ship ballistic missiles.
Mr. Ma has promised not to seek independence for Taiwan, ruled out unification with the mainland and demanded no use of military force by either side.
“I believe the world is big enough to accommodate both Taiwan and the mainland,” Mr. Ma said.
He has proposed a peace agreement with China, which would require Beijing to recognize the government in Taipei as legitimate.
China’s military buildup includes missiles pointed at Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, a democratically ruled island about 100 miles from the Chinese coast:
Year – Number of missiles
2008 – 1,400 *
2007 – 1,070
2003 – 450
2001 – 300
Source: News reports; U.S. intelligence reports *