US plays cross-strait war games

A crisis-simulation drill based on a growing Chinese military threat to Taiwan was played out this week by United States decision makers, Pentagon officials said.

The exercise, called Dragon's Thunder, was held on Monday at the Pentagon's National Defence University (NDU) even as China prepared to stage a mock invasion of the island.

Pentagon officials cautioned against reading anything into the timing of the strategy drill or into the deployment of seven US aircraft carrier strike groups worldwide simultaneously.

'Neither the deployment of carrier strike groups worldwide nor this NDU table-top exercise should be seen as sending a signal to any specific country,' said Pentagon spokesman Flex Plexico.

The US Defence Department announced on June 5 that it would deploy seven carriers to demonstrate a new navy plan for 'surging' its operations to project force.

The NDU said the scenario in the US exercises, ninth in a series prompted by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 'specifically examined responses to an increasing possibility of military action by China against Taiwan'.

Details of the scenario and 'lessons learned' were classified, but such crisis-simulation was meant to be as realistic as possible, said NDU spokesman David Thomas.

'Participants examined the complexity and difficulty inherent in responding to a sequence of escalating tensions between China and Taiwan.'

The NDU said: 'The exercise sought to understand the full range of policy options and associated consequences available to the US to restore stability to the Taiwan Straits and surrounding region, while avoiding nuclear confrontation with China.'

Participants included Mr Rumsfeld's staff, the Pentagon's Joint Staff, the US Pacific Command, the White House National Security Council, the National Intelligence Council and the departments of State and Commerce as well as 14 members of Congress.

[Source: The Straits Times, Singapore, Reuters, 17Jul04]

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