The Taiwanese armed forces are at the heart of a modernization program aimed at creating a more effective deterrent against China.
Taiwan has started mass production of a long-range missile and is developing three more models, a senior official said in a rare admission of his efforts to develop strike capability in the face of growing pressure from China.
Responding to questions from lawmakers in parliament, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng on Thursday said developing a long-range attack capability was a priority.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military activities near the island as it tries to force the Taipei government to accept Beijing’s claims of sovereignty.
Taiwan’s armed forces, eclipsed by China’s, are in the midst of a modernization program to provide a more effective deterrent, including the ability to retaliate at bases deep within China in the event of conflict .
“We hope it is long-range, precise and mobile,” Chiu told parliament, adding that research on these weapons by the state-owned Chung-Shan National Science and Technology Institute, had “never stopped”.
Standing next to Chiu, the institute’s deputy director Leng Chin-hsu said a long-range land missile had already entered production, with three more long-range missiles in development.
Leng said it was “impractical” for him to provide details on how far the missile could fly.
The institute, which leads Taiwan’s weapons development efforts, has carried out a series of missile tests off its southeast coast in recent months.
Taiwanese media broadcast footage of the missile launch and instructions were given to aircraft to stay clear of the test area, but the tests were otherwise shrouded in secrecy.
Taiwan’s armed forces have traditionally focused on defending the island from Chinese attack.
But President Tsai Ing-wen stressed the importance of developing an “asymmetric” deterrent, using mobile equipment that is difficult to find and destroy, and capable of hitting targets far from the Taiwanese coast.
Washington, Taipei’s main foreign arms supplier, has been keen to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an effort known in the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan.”