Three Gorges Probe

Taiwan ‘conducts computer-simulated attack on the dam’

Kelly Haggart

September 4, 2002

Amid growing tensions with Taiwan, China has revealed that it has built a missile defence shield to protect the Three Gorges dam from the threat of military attack.


China Radio International broadcast the news in apparent response to a recent report in the Taibei-based China Times Weekly that said Taiwan has conducted a computer-simulated military exercise in which state-of-the-art F-16 fighter jets launch an attack on the dam.

The F-16 is currently the only fighter plane in Taiwan’s arsenal that could undertake this long-range attack, carrying either a “smart bomb” or air-to-surface “maverick missile,” reporter Lu Zhaolong wrote in the magazine. His article was picked up by the U.S.-based Web site, Chinese News Net (Duowei xinwen wang), on Aug. 23.

China Radio International, in an Aug. 29 report carried on its Chinese-language Web site, said that after the dam project was approved in 1992, Beijing decided to protect the Three Gorges area with a “double-layer defence shield.”

It was also in 1992 that the United States sold Taiwan 150 F-16 jets. The planes have a range of 1,500 kilometres, allowing them to reach the Three Gorges dam from Taiwan, according to a popular news Web Site based outside China, Kan Zhongguo (Watching China).

Top Taiwan officials have recently warned that any attack by mainland forces would be met by retaliatory strikes on Hong Kong, Shanghai and “a final decisive battle in the heart of the mainland,” China Radio International said.

But, the radio said, the mainland has nothing to fear from Taiwan because of two defence shields, in place since 1997, that protect the Three Gorges dam area: an anti-ballistic missile defence shield covering much of the Yangtze River valley and a smaller shield focused on the dam itself.

“According to mainland military experts, it’s true that, supported and trained by the United States, Taiwan’s airforce has greatly enhanced its ability to attack the mainland in recent years,” the radio said. “However, these experts have pointed out that Taiwan’s airforce is not strong enough to penetrate the double-layer defence system built by the People’s Liberation Army. …

“In terms of overall military capability, it would be difficult for Taiwan’s airforce to carry out such a long-range attack on the Three Gorges dam in the near future. It appears that this kind of exercise is more bluff and bluster than actual plan,” the radio said.

In a separate report, Chinese News Net has also raised the spectre of a potential terrorist attack on the Three Gorges dam being launched by Muslim separatists from China’s northwest.

The Web site said in an Aug. 17 report that Wang Lixiong, author of a best-selling book published in Hong Kong, Sky burial: The fate of Tibet, has recently turned his attention to a region he feels will become an even bigger headache for Beijing than Tibet – Xinjiang, where radical separatists have turned to violence rather than peaceful means to achieve their independence goals.

Uigur separatist violence in the 1990s claimed 162 lives in 200 incidents inside Xinjiang, according to official figures published by China’s State Council. The official data also reveal that in one raid alone, police found six tonnes of bomb-making chemicals, as well as hundreds of rifles and tens of thousands of bullets.

Mr. Wang contends that the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States heightened fears among Chinese leaders that terrorist attacks emanating from predominantly Muslim Xinjiang could become increasingly serious and sophisticated.

He interviewed Uigur militants who hinted of plans to stage attention-grabbing attacks on several high-profile targets in China, one of which could be the Three Gorges dam. While Beijing may be well prepared for a military strike from the air, it may be less ready to contend with an unexpected ground-based attack from within its own territory, Mr. Wang was quoted as saying.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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