TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Defense Minister Tang Fei said Wednesday that Taiwan has detected a new Chinese missile brigade deployed near the island.
The new battalion of nearly 100 short-range ballistic missiles raises the threat against the island and emphasizes the need for an anti-missile defense, Tang said.
The Washington Times on Wednesday reported that the buildup was at a base in southeastern China about 275 miles from Taiwan. The missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the paper said.
U.S. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin refused to confirm or deny the report.
China and Taiwan split 50 years ago amid civil war, and China has repeatedly threatened to use force to reunify the island with the mainland.
Tang said Taiwan’s intelligence gatherers had ``early on″ detected plans by China to deploy the battalion.
``This deployment is aimed at us,″ he told reporters.
The Times said China is building missile bases to deploy a missile brigade estimated to have 16 launchers and up to 96 missiles.
The growing Chinese missile threat puts more pressure on Taiwan to work aggressively to build a system for diverting or shooting down incoming missiles at low-altitude, Tang said.
Missiles are considered one of China’s most potent tactical and psychological weapons against Taiwan. Financial markets plummeted here when China lobbed missiles into waters off Taiwan in 1995 and 1996 in an attempt to intimidate Taiwanese who favored maintaining the island’s sovereignty.
Taiwan deployed U.S.-made Patriot defense missiles around Taipei and is developing anti-missile technology to protect the entire island, while seeking to buy improved U.S. defense missiles and guidance systems.