News / Asia

Taiwan Develops Advanced Missiles

Taiwan's Hsiung Feng III missile is displayed during Taiwan's national day parade in Taipei. Taiwan rolled out its top military weaponry a move seen aimed at stirring China and boosting nationalist fervor, (File)
Taiwan's Hsiung Feng III missile is displayed during Taiwan's national day parade in Taipei. Taiwan rolled out its top military weaponry a move seen aimed at stirring China and boosting nationalist fervor, (File)
Ralph Jennings

This year Taiwan started to deploy supersonic anti-ship missiles in response to China’s growing naval arsenal. Those third generation Hsiung Feng missiles that are now positioned on some 20 ships point to a strengthening in Taiwan’s normally low-key domestic missile production. But its military might is growing at a time when relations with Beijing are better than ever.

Taiwan develops advanced weaponary

Weapons production is all but natural for the island that long ago mastered high-technology for commercial aims as diverse as machine tools and semiconductors. During the past 30 years, Taiwanese military researchers have developed anti-ship, surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles as well as an indigenous defense fighters and more commonplace sea mines and torpedoes. Analysts say the quality is steadily increasing.

In March this year, the military test fired domestic and U.S.-made missiles at the Chiu Peng Test Range in a remote coastal area of southern Taiwan. Despite some misses during the test, it says 70 to 90 percent of its missiles are in good shape, including those made here on the island.

Preparing to fend off attacks

Some 160 kilometers away from the coast is China, Taiwan’s would-be target ever since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war of the 1940s and fled to Taiwan. China’s Communists still claim sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan today and have not renounced the threat of force if Taiwan moves toward formal independence.

Beijing spends about $92 billion, 10 times more than Taiwan, per year on its quickly modernizing military and is considered far ahead in terms of fire power. Taiwan officials complain that Beijing is always adding to its arsenal of an estimated 1,900 missiles aimed at the island.

Taiwan military officials will not give a budget for homegrown arms, calling it a state secret. But a defense spokesman said the budget for acquiring U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets would decrease in 2012. Nathan Liu, a military relations scholar at Taiwan’s Mingchuan University, Taiwan's own weapons have the firepower to fend off an attack but the government may not have the budget to mount a strong defense.

Budget challenges

“In terms of technology and capability, I think Taiwan has that kind of capability, but we don’t have enough of a budget. Because of the limit of budget, so we couldn’t produce (a large) enough number of missiles. So if we don’t have enough number of missiles, which means that we can’t launch any meaningful attack, so it really doesn’t make too much sense,” said Liu.

China still warily watches the island’s military production. Earlier this year official Chinese media reported that a Taiwanese multiple rocket launcher was deployed on an outlying island near China but later taken offline. The subject of the third-generation Hsiung Feng missiles, which can travel at twice the speed of sound with a range of 130 kilometers, appeared on a Chinese news forum. Beijing could become more alarmed if Taiwan pursues widely reported plans to build a long-range ballistic missile dubbed the Hsiung Feng-2E with a 400-kilogram warhead.

Strategic, economic relationship with China

Apart from their military maneuvering, Taiwan’s relations with China have improved markedly since 2008. Nationalist Party President Ma Ying-jeou has increased trade dialogue with Beijing, which is eager to reunify with Taiwan through peaceful means.

Raymond Wu, managing partner with the political risk consultancy e-telligence in Taipei, says homegrown weapons are still popular across party lines.

"Despite the tremendous progress in cross-Strait economic relations during the past three years, I think the issue of national security is still very, very important for the majority in Taiwan. So given the fact that there is a lot of support within Taiwan for strong national defense then there's the need for the government, for the military forces to continue to upgrade military preparedness and also the weapons capabilities," stated Wu.

Wu says the arms industry is also seen among the Taiwanese public as a way to secure more power at the bargaining table with China in economic and other issues. But he says the support is also because the island’s historic top arms supplier, the United States, in recent years has been more reluctant to sell heavy weapons.

US weapons in Taiwan

“Given the fact that the trilateral relations between United States, China and Taiwan is a delicate balance, the sale of U.S. weapons to Taiwan has always been ultra-sensitive. Therefore there is the continued need for Taiwan to upgrade our self-defense forces and capabilities,” said Wu.

Although they have sold arms to Taiwan for decades, U.S. officials risk upsetting their uneasy strategic and economic relationship with China with new weapon sales. In January 2010 Beijing fumed and suspended military exchanges after Washington approved a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan. Since last year, U.S. diplomats in Taipei have said they would broadly evaluate Taiwan’s defense needs, possibly deciding against new hardware.

A spokesman for the island’s National Ministry of Defense said Taiwan needs its own weapons to ensure timely production. But he stopped short of saying the United States, its main arms supplier, is too slow in processing the island’s requests for U.S.-made weapons. Taipei is still urging Washington to approve the sale of as many as 66 F-16 jets, and members of the U.S. Congress are stepping up pressure on President Barack Obama to approve the order.


You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid