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22 Apr, 2022 15:03

Details of Taiwanese missile and drone program emerge 

Taipei’s weapons could potentially reach mainland China, experts say
Details of Taiwanese missile and drone program emerge 

Taiwan is working on bunker-busting missiles and new attack drones, Reuters reported on Friday, citing a document presented to parliament this week by the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), the island's top weapons developer. The news comes amid heightened tensions with Beijing.

According to the report, the Hsiung Sheng land-attack missile comes in two versions: one with a high-explosive warhead to destroy bunkers and well-protected command centers, and another with "dispersal" munitions to hit airfield facilities. The missile could have a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), Reuters said.

Chieh Chung, a researcher at the Taipei-based National Policy Foundation, was quoted as saying that the Hsiung Sheng could reach most bases in eastern China, including those near Shanghai. 

Another weapon mentioned in the report is the Sky Bow III surface-to-air missile, designed to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as to hit aircraft. 

The NCSIST also mentioned a plan to build four facilities by 2025, including bases and repair stations, for new drones that could attack missile launch sites, or act as decoys for enemy radars. 

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen instructed the NCSIST this month to boost its work on drones. "Regardless of whether it is for military or civilian use, it is highly necessary for us to speed up our development of drones as it will be an important matter for the next generation," she said. 

Taiwan first launched its drone program in the 1990s and has so far produced four models, including the Chien Hsiang kamikaze drone and the Teng Yun 2 UAV, armed with missiles. However, neither of the attack models were reportedly selected for mass production. 

Taipei is looking for ways to modernize its defenses as Beijing has been increasingly irritated with the island buying weapons from Washington. Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for Beijing's office on Taiwan affairs, said this month that the US arms sale was "no different from tying a bomb to every Taiwan compatriot."

President Tsai, who was re-elected in 2020, confirmed last year that a group of US service members were training Taiwanese soldiers in order to strengthen the island's defenses. In a speech in 2021, she vowed to defend Taiwan against "unprecedented challenges" presented by Beijing. 

Last week, the Chinese military staged major drills in the Taiwan Strait amid the visit of a high-profile delegation of US senators to Taipei.

Despite recognizing Beijing as the sole legitimate authority in China since 1979, Washington maintains unofficial ties with the self-governed island of Taiwan, actively backing its push for independence and supplying it with weapons.

Beijing has recently stepped up its rhetoric on "secessionist" politicians in Taipei. In March, Chinese military spokesman Wu Qian said the military supported the goal of peaceful reunification with the island, but “will never tolerate the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces to split the motherland.” 

Taiwan is a self-governing territory that has been de-facto ruled by its own government since 1949, when the losing side in the Chinese civil war fled to the island and set up its own administration there. China, for its part, considers the Taiwanese authorities to be separatists, insisting that the island is an inalienable part of China.

Top Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, have openly said that the use of force is one of the options on the table to ensure the ‘reunification’ of Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China. Under the so-called ‘One-China principle’ or ‘One-China policy,’ the vast majority of countries refrain from officially recognizing Taiwan’s independence.

Taiwan has, however, for years enjoyed extensive diplomatic and military support from the US, which maintains unofficial relations with the island. Washington has repeatedly warned Beijing of severe consequences if it attempts to take over Taiwan by force.