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Taiwan To Test Anti Missile System
Taipei (AFP) January 2, 2000 - Taiwan is expected to hold a live-fire exercise for its US-made Patriot anti-missile weaponry next year after Washington gave the go ahead, a paper here reported Sunday.
"It would be the first test firing of the arms system outside US territory," the Chinese-language United Daily News said.
The exercise would be held at Chiupeng missile base in Pingtung, the southern-most county on the nationalist island, the paper said, adding details had yet to be fixed.
The defense ministry would not comment on the report Sunday. The paper said that other countries armed with Patriots, including Japan, had accepted test-firing in the US.
"Our idea is that more accurate records close to Taiwan's needs would be obtained by having the exercise done here, particularly when weather conditions are considered," a top army official was quoted by the paper as saying.
"After all Taiwan's weather is vastly different from that of US deserts."
Despite strong protests from China, Washington sold 200 improved versions of the Patriot missiles (PAC-II Plus) and other facilities to Taiwan in 1993.
The US weaponry has been deployed in Nankang, Linkou, and Wanli, in the heavily-populated Taipei area in northern Taiwan.
The official told the paper that since the Patriots' arrival in 1996, missile training had passed a series of tests.
He added that last year the army conducted an "electronic simulation test" for the system at Chiupeng, during which mock targets were destroyed.
Apparently mindful of the Chinese threat to retake the island by force should it move towards full independence, Taiwan's Defense Minister Tang Fei told parliament last year the military wanted to buy six more Patriots.
He also disclosed in November that Taipei was working to bring an anti-missile system into service in 2005.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army fired ballistic missiles into the shipping lanes of Taiwan in 1996 during the island's first democratic presidential polls.
The sabre-rattling did not end until Washington sent two battle carrier gruops to waters near Taiwan.
Although Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it has continued to sell military equipment to Taiwan.