2010/08/31

Taiwan to deploy cruise missiles: lawmaker

TAIPEI, August 31, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan plans to deploy its own cruise missiles by the end of this year, a lawmaker and military pundit said Tuesday, reflecting continued tension with China despite warming ties.

Taiwan began mass producing the Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missiles after it acquired "key components" needed to manufacture the missiles, and will start deploying them this year, lawmaker Lin Yu-fang told AFP.

Lin, a member of the ruling Kuomintang party, declined to specify the range of the missiles or the number to be put into service.

President Ma Ying-jeou gave an order in 2008 for the production of 300 Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missiles, according to the Taipei-based China Times.

The paper said Hsiungfeng 2E, which was developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, has a range of around 800 kilometres (500 miles).

The institute has spent 2.2 billion Taiwan dollars (68 million US) each year since 2000 on developing the missiles, whose name means Brave Wind, and managed to expand its range from 600 to 800 kilometres, it said.

The missile could be launched on land or at sea, the paper said, adding that it would be capable of hitting airports and missile bases in southeast China, as well as cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing views the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

The Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress earlier this month that China's military build-up against Taiwan has "continued unabated" despite improving political relations.

China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence.
However, tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since Ma took office on a Beijing-friendly platform.