FOCUS : Escalating War of Words between China and Taiwan on Missiles (Feb. 12) :
Already home to the world's greatest concentration of ballistic missiles, the Taiwan Straits are likely to become host to a record number of anti-missile missiles. Feeling threatened by Taiwan's possible participation in the U.S. Theater Missile Defense initiative, China has massively increased the number of M-9 and M-11 ballistic missiles targeted on the island, prompting Taiwan's new government to step up its attempts to deploy effective anti-missile defenses.

This is how the story unfolded this week :

Feb. 7 : Taiwan is progressing with the development of an indigenous anti-missile missile, the United Daily News said. The paper said that the Sky Bow II missile proved its ability to intercept incoming missiles during a pair of tests last summer against a simulated attack and an actual Sky Bow ground-to-air missile. Sky Bow, if deployed in the south of the island, could provide an alternative defense if the U.S. refuses to sell PAC-3 due to domestic opposition or pressure from China, the paper said.

Feb. 9 : Taiwanese Defense Minister Tang Fei said Beijing had stepped up its missile threat against Taiwan, and that it is also developing cruise missiles which would pose an even greater danger. In a counter move, Taipei is studying the feasibility of joining the Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) scheme, Tang said.

Feb. 10 : The US State Department said that US officials had briefed Taiwan about advanced missile defense systems but that Taipei's interest in them appeared primarily informational."
 The Financial Times reported that China that had increased the deployment of M-9 and M-11 missiles targeting Taiwan to between 150 to 200. The number would be expanded to 650 over the next several years, it said quoting military analysts in Washington.

Feb 11 : China has more than 100 M-9 and M-11 surface-to-surface missiles targeted on Taiwan, according to Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Kung Fang-ting (ie, fewer than claimed by the Financial Times report). The missiles are deployed in China's Fujian and Jiangxi provinces.

Background :
 -China's foreign ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said in January that plans to integrate Taiwan into the TMD program and the continued sale of weapons to it were an "outright violation" of international laws and the three Sino-US joint communiques on the subject.

-The deployment of M-9 and M-11 missiles in coastal regions near Taiwan is China's response to the US-led Theatre Missile Defense scheme, which Beijing has branded a threat to the mainland, according to a Chinese military source.

-Taiwan bought three batteries of PAC-II Plus Patriot missiles from the United States in 1992 for 22.8 billion Taiwan dollars (706 million US) in a bid to beef up its anti-missile power. The three systems were deployed in the greater Taipei area and at least one has started anti-missile missions, the United Daily News newspaper reported in January. The paper said Taiwan would spend some 1.0 billion US dollars to procure PAC III over the next three years.

-The M-9 is capable of delivering a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) payload over a range between 600 to 1,200 kilometers (360 to 720 miles). The M-11 can carry a 800-kilometer payload over a range of 300 kilometers (180 miles). China's entire arsenal of such missiles numbered about 1,000, sources said.

-About 20 M-9 and M-11 missiles were fired during the 1995-96 PLA exercises in the Taiwan Strait.


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