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Taiwan "Borrows" Israeli Satellite During Overpasses

Eros-A snaps a utility pylon from 480 kilometers overhead.
  • ImageSat data extract
  • Taipei (AFP) Aug 12, 2001
    The ability of Taiwan to eavesdrop on China has been boosted by access to an Israeli spy satellite, it was reported Sunday.

    Taiwan's military intelligence is now partly plugged into the EROS-1 (Earth Resource Observation Satellite) which transmits photos with two meters (6.6 feet) in resolution, the United Daily News said.

    "Taiwan is authorised to fully control the satellite whenever it flies within a range of 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of the island's satellite ground signal station," the paper said.

    "Taiwan is able to spy on any targets on the mainland it desires," it added.

    The defense ministry, tight-lipped on sensitive topics, declined to comment on the report.

    Beijing has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan which it regards as part of territory to be united by force if necessary.

    In the latest Chinese threat, defense minister Chi Haotian on August called for the People's Liberation Army to be ready to retake Taiwan while vowing to transform the world's biggest army into a powerful, high-tech force.

    A military source quoted by the paper hailed the tie-up with Israel.

    "In the past Taiwan was only able to spy on the mainland's coastal and southeastern part through reconnaissance aircraft, now Taiwan gets clearer pictures of the mainland's military establishments," the source said.

    Taiwan's defense ministry said China has deployed some 350 ballistic missile targeted on the island.

    Until now Taiwan has been purchasing photos taken from the US IKONOS commercial satellite. While the US satellite provides photos of one meter in resolution, they take a month to deliver, the paper said.

    Taiwan was also required to report to the US government on the photos it ordered, the paper said.

    "This does not meet the military's real time and confidential demands," it said.

    The paper said Taiwan has signed contracts with Israel on the use of three other identical satellites due to become operational within the next five years.

    Taiwan in October 1991 launched a 15-year space programme at an estimated cost of 19.6 billion Taiwan dollars (560 million US).

    Its first fully-owned science satellite ROCSAT-1 went into orbit from the United States in January 1999.

    Its second satellite, named ROCSAT-2, would be sent into orbit in late 2003. Although the authorities insisted it would be designed for scientific research, some suspect it can be transferred to military uses.

    Taiwan also aims to put into orbit six micro-satellites weighing about 40 kilograms (85 pounds) each.

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