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2004-05-05 16:59:39

    Taipei, May 5 (CNA) There have been no signs that eight Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy warships, which have just completed a port call in Hong Kong, pose any immediate threat to Taiwan, Ministry of National Defense (MND) officials said Wednesday.

    The eight warships do not pose a threat of a surprise attack on Taiwan because they are not accompanied by any logistical vessels needed for sustainable combat action, said Gen. Chu Kai-sheng, vice chief of the General Staff, during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan.

    The warships, including two missile-equipped destroyers, two submarines and four frigates, have not been detected as preparing to launch live-ammunition fire as they began passing through the Taiwan Strait earlier in the day, Chu said.

    The warships are not expected to launch any live-fire drills during their navigation of the Taiwan Strait, given that any such live-fire drill should be only conducted seven to 12 days after an announcement is made to publicize such an action in accordance with international practices, Chu added.

    Chu said that only five of the eight ships are returning to their bases in eastern and northern China via the Taiwan Strait, adding that mainland China sent the warships to Hong Kong -- at the invitation of the Special Administrative Region's government -- mainly for domestic and foreign publicity and to display its naval might.

    The defense ministry has kept abreast of every mainland military movement and the armed forces are fully prepared and on high alert against any scenario, even though the MND does not see the passage of the vessels as any cause for concern, Chu said.

    The Republic of China armed forces should be on constant high vigilance against PLA attacks as the Chinese communists have never forsaken their intention to take Taiwan by force. Although there should be concern as all eight ships are domestically developed, there is no reason to worry unduly, as none of the vessels are accompanied by logistics vessels. This indicates that there is little chance of a real combat move as the ships pass through the strait, he said.

    Some legislators expressed concern that the PLA has chosen to flex its muscle prior to President Chen Shui-bian's May 20 inauguration for a second four-year term and that the PLA warships will demonstrate its firepower in the days leading up to May 20.

    In related news, a Hong Kong political observer said Wednesday that the warships' visit to Hong Kong is a program that was arranged a long time ago. It has nothing to do with the cross-strait situation, and is only aimed at proclaiming mainland sovereignty over Hong Kong once again and at "winning the patriotism of Hong Kongers," said the observer.

(By Deborah Kuo)


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