Taiwan says its missiles can strike China

Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan (second from left) attends a parliamentary session at Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan on March 16, 2017.
Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan (second from left) attends a parliamentary session at Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan on March 16, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Taipei confirms capabilities publicly for first time, as govt releases major defence report

TAIPEI • Taiwan said for the first time publicly that it is capable of launching missiles at China, as the government yesterday unveiled a major defence report warning of increased risk of Chinese invasion.

Defence Minister Feng Shih- kuan told lawmakers yesterday that he hoped to raise spending to 3 per cent of gross domestic product next year, up from 2 per cent this year and the highest proportion of Taiwan's Budget dedicated to the military for 10 years.

His comments come as China earlier this month announced plans to increase defence spending by 7 per cent.

Delivering the four-yearly report to Parliament, Mr Feng replied "yes" when asked by a lawmaker whether Taiwan was capable of firing at mainland China.

"It is the first time the ministry has confirmed this," lawmaker Wang Ting-yu told Agence France-Presse, saying Taiwanese missiles may be able to travel more than 1,500km.

The ministry has said in the past that it has produced cruise missiles, but has never publicly stated their capabilities.

China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be brought back into its fold, by force if necessary, even though the island has been self-governing since the two sides split after a civil war in 1949.

Ties have worsened since President Tsai Ing-wen and her proindependence Democratic Progressive Party took power last year, ending an eight-year rapprochement.

The report also pledged to create an enhanced military front that would protect Taiwan.

"Should the enemy insist on invading, we will weaken their capabilities by striking enemy troops at their home bases, fighting them at sea, crushing them as they approach the coastlines and wiping them out on the beaches," it said.

China has more than 1,500 missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the Defence Ministry. Most of these are believed to be positioned near the Chinese coast.

The island's military, which consists of around 200,000 troops, is a fraction of China's 2.3 million- strong army.

Mr Feng told lawmakers that Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, planes, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Assistant Professor Chong Ja Ian, from the National University of Singapore, who specialises in Asia-Pacific relations, said: "It may make sense from Taipei's perspective to invest more in defence at this juncture.

"Beijing is already dissatisfied with Taiwan. Unless Beijing wishes to escalate matters, relations between the two sides are unlikely to get worse, just as they are unlikely to get better."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Taiwan says its missiles can strike China'. Print Edition | Subscribe