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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

New PRC destroyer passes without incident

Published: February 12, 2000
Source: Taiwan News

Chief of the General Staff Tang Yao-ming confirmed last night that an advanced destroyer mainland China purchased from Russia passed the Taiwan Strait earlier in the day on its way to a naval base on mainland China's eastern coast.

Tang, however, did not disclose the exact time that the Sovremenny-class warship, one of the two Beijing purchased in 1997 from Moscow, sailed through the strait.

Military sources said the guided-missile destroyer cruised toward mainland China through the waters "at around noontime." Some said the ship left the military's radar surveillance screen at around 1 p.m.

Mainland Affairs Council Spokesman Lin Chong-pin told reporters that "building a democracy, not buying new warships, is the best way for mainland China to speed up reunification with Taiwan."

"Our elections will be far more powerful than any modern destroyers the mainland acquires... Democracy is the world trend, and we believe time is on our side," Lin said.

In the United States, State Department Spokesman James Rubin said the purchase by mainland China of the ship would not pose a significant threat to the United States' military posture in Asia.

While clearly improving mainland China's naval capabilities, "it is fair to say the appearance of one additional modern warship will not fundamentally alter the regional balance of power," he said.

Mainland China is scheduled to take delivery of the second such vessel later this year.

Chinese-language media reports said the first delivery was orchestrated to influence the island's presidential elections on March 18.

Tang, who was speaking to reporters at a Chinese New Year's dinner, avoided linking the delivery's timing to the elections.

He only said: "The military had full knowledge of the process mainland China purchased the ships ... and has been closely monitoring the situation in the strait."

He went on to say the military also has full knowledge about the destroyer's functions.

The new warships have a strong anti-submarine armament, including a bow-mounted sonar, torpedo tubes, rocket launchers, and a Russian KA-28 Helix twin-rotor helicopter.

Analysts said the Sovremennys represent a big advance in the Chinese navy's capabilities, but for mainland China to acquire the necessary skills to operate it would be a hard task.

Military sources said it would take six months or so for mainland China to train its troops for the new equipment.

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