Taipei – Taiwan needs to have long-range, accurate weapons in order to properly deter a China that is rapidly developing its systems to attack the island, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said Monday.
Taiwan this month proposed extra defense spending of almost $9 billion over the next five years, including on new missiles, as it warned of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “severe threat” from giant neighbor China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
Speaking in parliament, Chiu said Taiwan needed to be able to let China know they could defend themselves.
“The development of equipment must be long-range, precise, and mobile, so that the enemy can sense that we are prepared as soon as they dispatch their troops,” he added, referring to Taiwan’s missile capability.
In a written report to parliament to accompany Chiu’s appearance, the ministry said both medium- and long-range missiles were being used in intercept drills at a key test facility on Taiwan’s southeastern coast.
Chiu declined to give details to reporters of how far Taiwan’s missiles could reach, something the government has always keep well under wraps.
Taiwan offered an unusually stark assessment of China’s abilities in its annual report on China’s military, saying they could “paralyze” Taiwan’s defenses and are able to fully monitor its deployments.
Chiu said it was important that Taiwan’s people were aware of the danger facing them.
Asked what China would attack first in the event of a war, Chiu answered that it would be Taiwan’s command and communications abilities.
“On this the Chinese communists’ abilities have rapidly increased. They can disrupt our command, control, communications and intelligence systems, for example with fixed radar stations certainly being attacked first,” he said.
“So we must be mobile, stealthy and able to change positions.”
President Tsai Ing-wen has made bolstering and modernizing defenses a priority, to make the island into a “porcupine” that is hard to attack.
Taiwan has complained for months of repeated Chinese military activity near it, particularly of air force jets entering Taiwan’s air defense zone.
China has been ramping up efforts to force the democratically governed island to accept Chinese sovereignty. Most Taiwanese have no shown no desire to be ruled by autocratic Beijing.
Also Monday, a British frigate was sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait while en route to Vietnam, according to an official tweet from the vessel, in a move likely to anger Beijing amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan.
While U.S. warships pass through the strait on an almost monthly basis, despite Chinese opposition, U.S. allies have generally been reluctant to follow suit.
Chiu did not comment directly when asked about the British warship, saying he did not know what missions foreign ships in the Taiwan Strait were carrying out.
“When they pass through the Taiwan Strait our nation’s military will have a grasp of the situation, but will not interfere,” he told reporters in Taipei, adding they keep a close watch on all movements near Taiwan.
Britain’s HMS Richmond had been deployed in the East China Sea taking part in United Nations sanctions enforcement operations against North Korea.
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