- WASHINGTON -- Sometime around
Christmas, China is expected to take delivery of a Russian destroyer that
could raise the stakes for U.S. intervention in any future crisis over
Taiwan, arms experts say.
- The 7,300-ton ship is the first of the Sovremenny
for "contemporary") class ever exported. It is
powerful cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads
and are designed
to menace other ships.
- Coupled with the anticipated
delivery next year of anti-submarine
helicopters and a hybrid
Israeli-Russian airborne early-warning system,
the destroyer could
begin to alter the strategic equation in the Taiwan
- "The scariest scenario is the first-shot theory",
retired admiral Eric McVadon says. "If Beijing decided to take a
potshot at a (U.S. aircraft) carrier, this missile would give us something
to worry about".
- The deal, which includes one more destroyer and is
to be worth $1 billion to Russia, has been known to the
Pentagon for some
time. But the Clinton administration has not urged
the Russians to refrain
from the sale, a White House official
- "The two ships are capable", says Rear Adm.
Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman. "The missile systems are very
good". But Quigley says it is unclear how well Chinese crews would
be trained and how well the ships - introduced into the Soviet navy in
1981 - have been maintained.
- However, a statement from the Office of Naval
in response to a query from USA TODAY, raises concern
about the missiles
the ship carries. Code-named Sunburns, the missiles
travel at twice the
speed of sound and can be equipped with nuclear or
warheads. The Sunburn, the office said,
"provides more of everything:
greater speed, more range, better
accuracy, greater punch and higher maneuverability".
- At his confirmation
hearing Oct. 28 to be the next U.S.
ambassador to China, retired
admiral Joseph Prueher sidestepped a question
about whether the
missiles would be nuclear-tipped. Prueher, former chief
of U.S. forces
in the Pacific, said that the United States has developed
dealing with the ship but conceded that U.S. and Taiwanese forces
have "to adjust their tactical thinking" if it was introduced
into the Chinese fleet".