2010/06/02

Taiwan to test missile that could reach Beijing: report

TAIPEI, June  2, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan is to test a missile for the first time that could hit Beijing, a report said Wednesday.

The island's defence ministry immediately denied the report on the medium-range surface-to-surface missile, but said research was being carried out on "various weapons systems".

The missile, designed to hit targets up to 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) away, will be launched Thursday and Friday from Chiupeng, a tightly-guarded base in southern Taiwan, Taipei-based Next Magazine said.

If successful, the weapons project codenamed "Ching Sheng" would move into mass production stage, according to the usually well-informed magazine.

The defence ministry plans to deploy 150 such missiles, on top of 240 existing cruise missiles, to form one of the island's main deterrents against Chinese attack, it said.

The medium-range missiles could also be used to strike other major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Chongqing as well as its ballistic missile bases in eastern and southeast China, it said.

"Research and development of various weapons systems have been carried out as scheduled," a defence ministry official told AFP, but added that "the content of the report is not true".

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased significantly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.

Yet Beijing still refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan should it declare formal independence, prompting the island to seek more defensive weapons.

The island has governed itself since it split from the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
The magazine said China had boosted the number of its missiles aimed at the island from 300 in 2001 to 1,400 in 2008.