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China Reportedly Steps Up Missile Deployment - 2001-08-28

A U.S. newspaper report says China has stepped up its deployment of missiles that can reach Taiwan, increasing tensions in the region. China's government has not officially responded to the report, but in the past, officials have said China can deploy its forces inside its own borders anyway it sees fit.

The article in The Washington Times is said to be based on unnamed intelligence sources. The newspaper says China has boosted the number of short-range missiles pointed at Taiwan from 300 to about 350 in the past few months.

Experts say the number of missiles is important because they are China's most credible weapons in the event of a conflict with the island. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be brought back under central government control - by force if necessary.

China has a huge army, but has few of the boats and planes that would be needed to deliver and support the massive military force that would be needed to take and hold the island.

In a briefing for reporters earlier this year, China's top arms-control expert, Ambassador Sha Zukang said other nations should not tell China where to put its own forces inside its own borders.

Top U.S. military and intelligence officials have been saying for several years that China has hundreds - or several hundred - missiles deployed against targets in Taiwan, and were adding perhaps 50 missiles each year.

What may be new in the most recent article is an increase in the pace of deployment, or the interpretation by one high-ranking Pentagon official that the continued deployment shows Beijing is not interested in a peaceful resolution to the disagreement with Taiwan.