Taiwan Defence Ministry
Confirms Two US Carrier
Group Exercises

Taipei (CNA) - A Ministry of National Defense (MND) official confirmed Friday recent reports of two US aircraft carrier groups exercising in the South China Sea, but stressed that the drills are part of the US Navy's annual routine event.
Vice Defense Minister Sun Tao-yu made the remarks during Friday morning's breakfast meeting and at the invitation of New Party Caucus Convener Lee Ching-hua and Legislative Vice Convener Feng Hu-hsiang. The meeting was called to examine how the ministry is operating amid continued tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
When asked by Feng about foreign wire service reports on exercises by two US aircraft carriers last week near Singapore, Sun confirmed that the United States did send two carrier groups, the USS Kitty Hawk and Constellation, to the South China Sea, but stressed that it was probably part of an annual routine exercise.
After the war in the Persian Gulf, Sun said, North and South Korea have become the United States' major strategic concerns; thus this was probably just part of a normal exercise of the US South Pacific fleet, he said.
Whether the battle group exercise was related to tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the MND has no way of knowing, the vice minister said.
Sun also stressed that the situation across the Taiwan Strait mostly depends on the Republic of China's ability to clearly monitor mainland Chinese military activities.
As for the fact that mainland Chinese jet fighters crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait twice in late July, Sun said that the ROC Air Force had closely monitored both incidents.
The center line of the strait is not a statutory boundary, but a tacit understanding between the two sides, he said, and the mainland Chinese Air Force has always shown considerable self-restraint in the past.
As long as its activities do not interfere with Taiwan's international and domestic flights and are not provocative, no conflicts are likely to erupt, he said.
Since the outlying Matsu and Kinmen islands both lie closer to the mainland than to Taiwan, the ROC Air Force would have to cross over the center line as well when providing air supplies, he pointed out.
Sun dismissed foreign wire reports of two ROC Mirage jet fighters being locked onto by mainland Chinese Su-27s. If the Su-27s had targeted ROC jet fighters with their narrow radar beams and not fired, their positions would have been exposed, he pointed out.
He continued that unless mainland China was prepared to wage war, the ROC Air Force would actually welcome more mainland jet fighters locking onto Taiwan warplanes so that Taiwan can easily obtain information on mainland Chinese fighters.
The vice minister also dismissed reports that 500,000 reservists had been amassing in Fujian province and that they could "easily take over Taiwan in four to five days."
As mainland China lacks military mobility, Sun said that military experts from both England and the United States have said that the mainland does not have the ability to conquer Taiwan at present, and that Beijing's claims are part of its psychological warfare campaign against the ROC.
Sun pointed out that the MND is well prepared for further "information warfare" against Taiwan, and added that it is not likely that Beijing would launch an economic blockade against the island since such a move would affect the economic benefits of other Asian countries. (By Wendy Chung)