Taiwan ‘targeted by mainland China’s top medium-range missiles’

Deployment of DF-16 missiles part of the increased military intimidation of Taiwan by Beijing, according to island’s defence minister

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 3:22am

Taiwan’s defence minister confirmed on Monday that mainland China has deployed its most accurate short to medium range ballistic missiles that can launch precision strikes against the island, the Central News Agency reported.

The DF-16 has been deployed by the PLA’s Rocket Force as the mainland steps up its military intimidation against Taiwan, Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said.

Feng was speaking to the Foreign Affairs and National Defence Committee in the Legislative Yuan, the island’s legislature.

He gave no further details of where the missiles were deployed, but said Taiwan was confident that it could detect the missile and “has adequate weaponry to shoot it down outside its borders”.

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The road-mobile, solid-fuelled DF-16 missile was publicly displayed at a Beijing military parade in 2015 and is believed to have a range of about 1,000km, putting it within striking distance of Taiwan, the Philippines and Okinawa in Japan, home to several US military installations.

The United States is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against invasion or aggression under its Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

The DF-16 was featured in a video posted by mainland China’s Defence Ministry last month, with the missiles on a 10-wheel transport vehicle being deployed in a forest during exercises over the Lunar New Year holiday period.

Hong Kong-based military expert Liang Guoliang said the DF-16 had the highest accuracy among all short to medium range ballistic missiles China had developed. It had a margin of error below 10 metres, compared with the 500 metres of the older DF-11 and DF-15 missile systems.

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“It can carry out a decapitation strike [against Taiwan] by hitting its presidential office building. It can also strike Taiwan’s missile defence base and airports,” Liang said.

The DF-16 also features high anti-interference capabilities thanks to its guidance system, which is a substantial improvement from the previous models, according to Liang.

He said the missiles had been deployed in the mainland’s Nanjing Military Region – which became the Eastern Theatre Command following a military revamp – and aimed at Taiwan.

The military command’s jurisdiction includes the coastal provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian, which is across the strait from Taiwan.

Liang claimed Taiwan’s defence ministry had known about the missile’s deployment for a long time, as the mainland clearly stated that the missiles were in service during their debut in the 2015 military parade.

“But Taiwan’s defence minister only announced they have confirmed it now. I think they’re trying to play up the matter,” he said.

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Liang estimated three to four brigades of DF-16 missiles had so far been deployed on the mainland.

Feng said the mainland had stepped up its combat capabilities and the modernisation of its weaponry since last year as the PLA revamped its military.

Feng said Beijing had also increased the “intimidation” of Taiwan by staging six military exercises in the West Pacific, with its navy and air force passing areas around Taiwan.

These drills included sending the mainland’s sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning to carry out training exercises in waters to the east of Taiwan.

Retired generals on the mainland also frequently played up the military risks posed in the Taiwan Strait, Feng said.

Cross-strait ties have been strained since the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took power in Taiwan in May last year.

The Beijing-friendly Kuomingtang was replaced by an administration led by President Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing has also taken a tougher military stance against the island following a phone call between Tsai and US President Donald Trump after his election victory last year.

Mainland China considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province and tries to deter any contacts between foreign dignitaries and the island’s government.

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