TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan has started mass production of a long-range missile and is developing three other models, a senior official said on Thursday, in a rare admission of efforts to develop attack capability amid increasing pressure Chinese.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military activity near the island by trying to force the Taipei government to accept Beijing’s claims to sovereignty.
Taiwan’s armed forces, diminished by those of China, are in the midst of a modernization program to offer a more effective deterrent, including the ability to counter attack bases deep in China in the event of conflict.
Responding to questions from the legislator in parliament, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that developing a long-range strike capability is a priority.
“We hope it will be long-range, accurate and mobile,” he said, adding that research on these weapons by the Chung-Shan National Institute of Science and Technology “has never stopped.”
Beside Chiu, the institute’s deputy director, Leng Chin-hsu, said that a long-range ground missile has already gone into production, with three other long-range missiles in development.
Leng said it was “not convenient” to provide details of how far the missile can fly.
The institute, which is leading Taiwan’s weapons development efforts, has conducted a series of missile tests on the southeast coast in recent months.
Taiwanese media published images of missile launches and instructions were given to the aircraft to stay away from the test area, but the tests were shrouded in secrecy.
Taiwan’s armed forces have traditionally focused on defending the island from Chinese attack.
But President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized the importance of developing an “asymmetric” deterrent, using mobile equipment that is difficult to find and destroy and capable of hitting targets far off the coast of Taiwan.
Washington, Taipei’s main foreign arms supplier, is eager to create a military counterweight to Chinese forces, based on an effort known in the Pentagon as “Taiwan Fortress”.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)