China beefing up coastal missile deployment to target Taiwan: report

10/18/2020 07:13 PM
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File photo courtesy of China News Service
File photo courtesy of China News Service

Taipei, Oct. 18 (CNA) China has been building up its coastal missile deployment in preparation for a possible invasion of Taiwan, Hong Kong media reported Sunday.

Quoting an unnamed military source, the South China Morning Post said the missile bases on the coasts of Fujian and Zhejiang -- two provinces close to Taiwan -- have been upgraded and are being equipped with the most advanced hypersonic missiles, the DF-17s.

"The DF-17 hypersonic missile will gradually replace the old DF-11s and DF-15s that were deployed in the southeast region for decades," said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. "The new missile has a longer range and is able to hit targets more accurately."

The DF-17, which has a maximum range of 2,500 kilometers, was debuted October 1, 2019, during China's National Day parade, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, according to the report.

Citing Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review, the report said satellite images show that both the Marine Corps and Rocket Force bases in Fujian and Guangdong provinces have expanded in recent years.

"Every rocket force brigade in Fujian and Guangdong is now fully equipped," Chang was quoted as saying. "The size of some of the missile bases in the Eastern and Southern theater commands have even doubled in recent years, showing the PLA is stepping up preparations for a war targeting Taiwan."

Asked to comment, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) told local media that the nation's armed forces have a full grasp of the deployment and maneuvers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops. Based on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data, Taiwan's military has been taking appropriate precautions, the MND said.

Meanwhile, Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told CNA that the DF-17 can be used to attack Taiwan. Given their long range, however, the missiles are probably being deployed more as an offensive weapon against U.S. aircraft carriers and bases, rather than Taiwan, Su said.

Most likely, the deployment of the DF-17 is meant to deter U.S. warships from entering the Taiwan Strait and intervening in a cross-strait war, Su said.

Expressing similar views, Qi Yue-yi (亓樂義), a Taiwanese military expert on PLA issues, told CNA that China would more likely use a series of short-and-medium-range ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, like the DF-11 and DF-15, against Taiwan.

On the question of Taiwan's response options against the DF-17, Su said the early-warning Leshan Radar Station would be able to detect the missile during its climbing phase, while the RIM-161 Standard Missile III and PAC-3 ballistic missile defense systems could intercept and destroy the incoming missile.

Currently, the PLA has only about 100 DF-17 missiles, but it is expected to increase production and deployment in the years ahead, he said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's military is developing a laser weapon system that will be capable of intercepting missiles, Su said.

Cross-strait relations have been strained since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) assumed office in May 2016.

Over the past few months, China has stepped up its coercive efforts, sending its military assets into Taiwan's air defense identification zone and across the median line of Taiwan Strait, as the U.S. and Taiwan have been engaged in discussions on closer military and political cooperation.

(By Chen Yun-yu, Lai Yen-hsi and Joseph Yeh)

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