Russia Helping China Build Systems for Taiwan Assault
US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin began their four-day summit at the Kremlin on a high note Friday, May 24, with the ceremonial signing of a reciprocal nuclear reduction pact. However, stormy waters lie ahead of the two leaders as they move to St. Petersburg, Saturday, May 25, and get down to brass tacks. Iran is not the only issue seriously at odds between them.
debkafile‘s China team reports have learned that that, in early April 2002, the major Russian state armaments concern Rosoboroneksport approved assistance to China by the Russian aerospace-defense industry in building up the required military equipment for a possible Taiwan operation.
Systems recently sold include two US$200 million Altair Research and Production Association Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rif S-300F ship borne air defense systems for heavy cruisers, the naval counterpart of the S-300 surface to air missile system (SAM) that has a tactical ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability.
China’s People’s Liberation Army has recently ordered US$400 million S-300 systems. The choice of the S-300F by the PLA Army Navy (PLAN) may indicate that it intends to develop a class of 10,000 ton plus missile cruisers by 2005, possibly in tandem with the development of a class of large aircraft carriers for power projection throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Russian sources indicate that China’s indigenous shipbuilding industry is advancing towards the building of units geared towards a near-term Taiwan invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently formed a new Almaz-Antey air defense concern that will include Altair and twenty other air defense related designers and manufacturers. China is now concentrating on ordering key Russian subsystems, rather than complete combat systems such as aircraft and ships, that can be quickly integrated in Chinese designed platforms and eventually reverse-engineered and improved. One example is advanced Russian AL-31FN turbofan aero-engines for China’s new indigenous J-10 jet fighter that is now entering serial production by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group. Another is the likely delivery of several advanced Russian A-50 Mainstay AWAC aircraft variants for the PLAAF over the next year, along with several Ilyushin Il-78 refueling tankers. China is likely a prospective market for Russian defense subsystems for the next seven to eight years, by which time its aerospace-defense sector will essentially be autonomously capable of producing any integrated military system. China will then compete with Russia for what remains of its customers in the global defense market.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington and Moscow sources also report that on this and on another of the ticklish items on the Bush-Putin agenda, Iran, the Russian president is confronted with tough dilemmas.
Beyond the agreements on nuclear arms limitation and Russia’s expanded role in NATO decision-making, Bush needs an assurance of Russian intelligence cooperation in any military actions against Iraq – and, if necessary, against Iran, Syria and the Hizballah in Lebanon too.
Above all, he hopes to persuade Putin to finally halt construction of the Iranian atomic reactor at Bushehr, now it its final stages, and bring home the hundreds of Russian scientists and engineers helping Iran develop the 1,800 km-2,000 km (1,100 mile -1,200 mile) range Shihab-4 missile.
He will present the Iranian peril as a cause of deep concern for stability in Central Asia, arguing that if Moscow helps Tehran acquire a nuclear arsenal and long-range missiles, Iran will be in a position to wipe out the US-Russian investment in Central Asia and the Caspian region. Their joint interests will be squeezed in a pincer movement – from Iran in the east and from China in the north.
All the US efforts since 1994 to dissuade the Kremlin from providing Iran with nuclear aid and high technology have been unavailing. Bush will now confront Putin with his moment of truth.
Meanwhile, our military sources say the Iranians are girding for trouble. Ten days ago, they fortified the Bushehr complex’s defenses. US and Israeli satellite photographs show the deployment of additional batteries of surface-to-air missiles and five more missile boats, raising to 11 the number of missile boats moored there.