Taiwan to flex its military muscle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am

Island's first military parade in 16 years to feature locally made missiles

Taiwan is set to showcase two locally developed missiles for the first time during its 'national day' parade in an apparent display of its capacity to strike back should Beijing attack the island.

The island's defence minister, General Lee Tien-yu, revealed yesterday that the supersonic anti-ship Hsiung Feng-3 (Brave Wind-3) missile and the anti-missile Tien Kung-3 (Sky Bow-3) would be on show during the rare military parade tomorrow. 'After two rehearsals on October 3 and 5, we feel that there is still room to upgrade the exhibited items during the national day military display, and the increased items will include Hsiung Feng-3, Tien Kung-3 and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles],' he said in a legislative session.

He was referring to the island's first military parade in 16 years, dating back to the rule of former president Lee Teng-hui. The island decided against holding large-scale military parades and reviews after the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, then the opposition party, criticised them as a waste of money and resources.

But to mark the end of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's final term in May, the authorities have reportedly decided to hold a grand military parade, which the defence ministry described as a 'military display'.

The display comes at a time of heightened cross-strait tension, which has escalated since Mr Chen has pushed for the island to join the United Nations in the name of 'Taiwan' and hold a referendum on the issue alongside the presidential election in March.

Beijing views Mr Chen's referendum push as the first step towards Taiwan independence and has threatened to resort to its Anti-Secession Law to attack the island.

General Lee admitted last week the display of military equipment was 'a kind of effective deterrent, so that the Chinese communists would be aware that Taiwan is tough'.

Yesterday, General Lee said the Hsiung Feng-3 and Tien Kung-3, the latest weapons developed by Taiwan to counter the mainland's military threat, would be on display. But another missile, the Hsiung Feng-2E, would not be unveiled because 'it is still in the development stage'.

Reports about the island's development of the land-based missile, with a range of 600km that could reach Shanghai and the southern coast of the mainland, have drawn expressions of concern from Beijing.

Washington, the island's informal ally and biggest arms supplier, has also reportedly expressed concern because the development violates an international convention prohibiting the development of missiles with a range beyond 300km.