Taiwan missile tests not meant as messages
Taipei, Taiwan (UPI) Jan 19, 2011
Taiwan said its missile launches on the eve of the Chinese state visit to the United States weren't meant as a message to Washington.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said he was "not happy" with the results of a major air defense missile test at a base in Pingtung County and in which six of the missiles failed to find their targets.
Regardless of the success rate, there was no message in the fact that the tests went ahead a day before U.S. President Barack Obama was to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington.
Ma, along with reporters, watched the tests from a building overlooking the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology's Jiupeng missile testing base. The tests included Sky Bow IIs missiles, MIM-23 Hawks and FIM-92 Stingers.
But four of the six missile malfunctions included a failure to detonate.
One of the RIM-7M Sparrow missiles reportedly climbed to around 600 feet but 30 seconds after liftoff veered wildly off course and plunged into the South China Sea.
"I'm not satisfied with the results," Ma said. "I hope the military will determine the reasons and improve its training."
Ma also said the tests had "nothing to do" with the Hu's U.S. visit and the recent first test flight of China's stealth fighter. The missile tests, he said, were "to bring more transparency into military affairs and allow the public to view the military's readiness."
The missile tests were part of a larger air defense drill including Taiwanese military's General Dynamics F-16A/B, Mirage 2000, Northrop F-5E/F and the Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft as well as a Bell AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter.
The failure of the tests was another warning, some analysts said. Taiwan needs continued strong U.S. military backing at a time of increasing military prowess from communist mainland China, lying 100 miles across the Strait of Taiwan.
Only with a strong military can Taiwan guard its independence from the Beijing government that has, since the communist victory in the civil war in 1949, claimed Taiwan as a province. Despite Taiwan's separate government and democratic processes, Beijing has insisted on its "one-China" policy whereby it puts political pressure on many countries to acknowledge Beijing's claim to Taiwan.
At the top of Taiwan's military shopping list is the sale of more than 65 advanced F-16 fighter by the United States, much to the annoyance of China.
Taiwan's former envoy to the Unites States Joseph Wu, now a research fellow at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, said he expects the Hu meeting with Obama to undermine Taiwan's national interests.
Hu will probably remind Obama of their joint statement signed in November 2009 during Obama's visit to Beijing. Both countries would respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the United States would encourage both China and Taiwan to increase scientific, political and economic contacts.
As the joint statement has caused major harm to Taiwan and there is no doubt that the (Obama-Hu meeting) will again undermine the interests of Taiwan," Wu said.
York Chen, an associate professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University, said the Ma government should be more concerned about Beijing's military successes.
"The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter is meant to be used as a first-strike force against Taiwan," said Chen, who is also a former member of Taiwan's National Security Council. "Japan is not its target, nor is Guam. However, the Ma administration was unable to get hold of any information beforehand and had no reaction to its test flight."
Last year China froze its military contacts with the United States of arms sales to Taiwan and only recently have the two countries reopened lines of communication, mainly to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to accidental military confrontations.
But last week U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Hu in Beijing as part of his three-day visit to China designed to improve military links.
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