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June 9, 2000 VOL. 29 NO. 22 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK


U.S. Navy photo by Ensign John Gay

Points Of Escalation

THE AMERICAN Theater Missile Defense umbrella would embrace Japan, South Korea and possibly Taiwan. The U.S. says such systems protect them from "rogue nation" missile attacks. Skeptics say the threat is slight and the deployment of TMD forces China to increase its capabilities- which Beijing says it will do.

THE CHINESE say they've perfected an anti-missile defense system of their own, but for low-level tactical weapons. They no longer deny building up missile batteries in Fujian province across the strait from Taiwan. China has four different submarine-building programs and a massive inventory of surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles. They have fewer than 20 missiles capable of hitting the U.S.

TAIWAN SAYS it will test-fire its U.S.-made Patriot missile system, in September 2001 -- the first time the latest Patriot system will have been launched outside the U.S.

INDIA'S NAVY, starting a new 10-year expansion program, launched its first indigenously developed frigate in April. It is the first of nine new ships to be commissioned this year. Work starts on five more in 2001. It is also converting a Russian aircraft carrier for its use, refitting its submarines in Russian shipyards and is committed to buying Russian MiG aircraft. India's defense budget saw its largest single annual increase this year.

THESE SORTS of improvements are typical for the region: Singapore's first submarine arrived at its home base in April and a second will follow in 2001; Indonesia will expand its navy by 20,000 sailors and 10,000 marines within five years; Thailand has an aircraft carrier and is considering buying a submarine.

MALAYSIA is an exception. Its latest five-year defense plan aims to resume the transformation of the armed forces that began before the economic crisis hit the region. But "defense will not be a first-level priority for the government," Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda, who heads the Malaysian Strategic Research Center, told Janes. Kuala Lumpur does not release details of its military spending, but the 2000 budget allocates $1.58 billion for defense force operations and development.

WHEN AUSTRALIA'S attempts to improve its own destroyers' guided missile-wielding capability faltered, it immediately launched Project 400 to build new ships. The interim plan under consideration: buying four U.S.-built destroyers.

LOCKHEED MARTIN'S F-16 is the most numerous fighter aircraft in Asia, with more than 500 in service in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and New Zealand. Lockheed's sub-chasing P-3's are used by Japan and South Korea and its C-130 transports are "almost everywhere," the company boasts. In Asia, only Malaysia has bought Boeing's F/A-18 Hornets, see picture.

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