Taiwan Improves Missiles, Interceptors 08/18 12:17
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan is responding to China's arms buildup by
developing missiles and interceptors of its own that could reduce Beijing's
military advantage over the self-ruled island, defense experts say.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, Taiwan has deployed one
set of missiles, perfected another and sped production of a third, the analysts
say, in the latest sign of how it's handling a Chinese military threat that is
raising the chances of an armed confrontation.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a hard line against advocates of
independence for Taiwan and has sent warships, bombers and fighter planes on
training missions circling the democratic island in a show of strength.
While Beijing has an increasingly overwhelming military advantage, Taiwan's
missile systems advance its odds of holding off China in asymmetrical warfare,
said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in
Taiwan. The term refers to effective resistance of an enemy with targeted
firepower rather than overwhelming force.
"Taiwan with limited resources can only invest in the area that would create
some kind of asymmetrical advantage, which would dissuade the Chinese from
taking actions," Huang said. "President Tsai has committed more or at least
expressed willingness to invest more in the asymmetrical capability."
The two sides have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the
1940s, and China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan. Beijing has not ruled
out using force to unify the sides, a threat it has highlighted amid Tsai's
continuing rejection of its demand that both interact as parts of a single
Hsiung Feng IIE missiles built in Taiwan have been deployed to hit military
bases in China up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away, said David An, senior
research fellow with the policy incubator Global Taiwan Institute in
Those missiles also underwent a "substantial upgrade" last year to increase
their effectiveness against ships, An said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has stepped up production of its indigenous Wan Chien
air-to-ground cruise missiles by about 100, An added.
Backing up those improvements, the locally developed Tien Kung system can
now intercept Chinese missiles at ranges of up to 200 kilometers (124 miles),
An said. PAVE PAW, a U.S. long-range early warning radar system located in
Taiwan's high central mountain range, would track incoming missiles or aircraft.
Taiwanese Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi declined to confirm
deployment of the Hsiung Feng IIE missiles after the military news website
Kanwa Defense Review posted photos indicating they were situated about 50
kilometers (31 miles) west of the capital, Taipei, near the island's major
international airport. Kanwa did not answer requests for comment.
China's Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for
comments on Taiwan's missile program.
"They are looking more at building their land-based military capabilities,"
said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological
University in Singapore.
To pressure Tsai into meeting its demands, the communist leadership has
flown military aircraft near the island a dozen times and passed China's only
functioning aircraft carrier through the 160-kilometer (100-mile) ocean strait
China has a powerful arsenal of missiles targeting Taiwan and raised its
military budget by 8.1 percent this year, compared to Taiwan's increase of
about 2 percent in 2017-2018. China is building warships at a world-setting
pace, while also developing stealth fighters and bomb-delivering vehicles that
travel at up to six times the speed of sound.
Military experts call the deployment of the Hsiung Feng IIE missiles likely.
"It has been successfully developed," said Andrew Yang, a former Taiwanese
defense minister and current secretary general of the Chinese Council of
Advanced Policy Studies think tank. "They've test fired many times and called
China and Taiwan have never fought a full-scale war, though in the late
1950s, China shelled outlying islands controlled by Taiwan without taking them.
Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou eased tensions during his 2008-2016
term by allowing talks with China on Beijing's terms, but frictions have
resumed under Tsai.
Success in an asymmetric war would hinge on Taiwan's budget, the ability of
its hardware and China's attack strategy, military analysts say.
Taiwan's current crop of missiles can probably hit ships and sink transport
vessels, An said. Taiwan should also focus on resisting an amphibious landing,
which China's People's Liberation Army Navy "has not demonstrated the ability
to do without significant cost," he said.
Taiwan still lags in submarines and stealth aircraft, An said. It looks to
the United States for much of its air force fleet and hopes Washington will
license it diesel-electric submarine technology.
China routinely denounces defense cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S.,
but has been unable to prevent what limited arms sales and exchanges have
occurred. Last Monday, President Donald Trump signed the John S. McCain
National Defense Authorization Act, which among its clauses calls for a
"comprehensive assessment of Taiwan's military forces" with an eye toward
"Taiwan's greatest promise is the hope that the United States and its allies
could decide to assist Taiwan if and when Taiwan is under threat," An said.