Taipei 'well aware' of PLA airport just minutes away
Taiwan's military said yesterday it was aware of a new airport being built by the People's Liberation Army in nearby Fujian province and would take action to ensure the island's safety.
The island's Ministry of National Defence was responding to media reports the PLA had blasted off a mountaintop as part of work on the airport, which is nearing completion just 245 kilometres from Taipei.
'We are well aware of the mainland building such an airport and our citizens can rest assured that we will prepare countermeasures for any military movements by the mainland,' ministry spokesman Major General Luo Shou-he said.
The ministry also said it would assess a proposal from legislators to outfit planned warships with island-made Hsiung Feng 2E cruise missiles to help bolster the navy's combat strength.
Media reports about the airport said the PLA planned to station J-10 and Sukhoi Su-30 fighters there, as well as S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.
The facility would put the planes 380 kilometres from the disputed Diaoyu Islands and 200 kilometres from the Chunxiao field, an undersea natural gas deposit in the East China Sea being developed by mainland companies.
The reports estimated that PLA warplanes would be able to reach the gas field in seven minutes, Taipei in 10 minutes and the Diaoyu Islands in 12 minutes.
The airport's construction has been seen by some analysts as a sign that Beijing feels compelled to increase its reach in the East China Sea in the light of the growing regional military strength of Japan and the United States.
Luo declined to comment on the strategic significance of the airport, but said the ministry had always carefully considered the PLA's military moves so it could swiftly prepare countermeasures.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's deputy defence minister, Chao Shih-chang, confirmed that the navy planned to contract a local shipbuilding firm to build new 450-tonne missile cruisers as part of the island's policy to build its own warships.
The Taiwanese legislature had earlier passed a non-binding resolution calling on the defence ministry to equip the ships with the 2E cruise missiles.
The ministry has raised concerns with the US over a recent US Senate Armed Services Committee report that found more than one million counterfeit parts in US military aircraft, with most originating in mainland China.
Chao said the ministry contacted the US to make sure no mainland-made products were used in the aircraft it bought, but Washington had yet to respond.
The designed range in kilometres of Taiwan's home-grown Hsiung Feng missiles