Taiwanese legislators are spooked by a whole new type of missile that China has developed. It has the potential to more easily penetrate the island's missile defenses, which have cost billions of U.S. dollars and casts a shadow over the mainland leadership’s repeated "crooning" about “harmony” across the strait.
Called the DF-16, it was described by a top Taiwanese intelligence expert as “more powerful, advanced, and has a greater range than older types of Dong Feng [DF] missiles.” Tsai Der-sheng, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau director general, briefed the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee about the missile on March 16, according to the Taipei Times.
Tsai said that the faster re-entry of the DF-16—a result of ballistic missiles leaving the earth's atmosphere before re-entering it to eliminate their targets—would greatly reduce the effectiveness of Taiwan’s PAC-3 missile interceptors. Taiwan acquired those missile interceptors from the U.S. for the princely sum of $9.8 billion, and they are still in deployment.
The DF-16 has an estimated range of between 600 to 900 miles (1,000 to 1,500 km), which covers the U.S. military base on Okinawa, Japan, according to a military intelligence source cited by the Taiwan-based Liberty Times.
At the meeting Tsai also revealed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been busy deploying scores of other DF-series missiles, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, which were built to “kill” American aircraft carriers. This one the PLA has already tested, he said.
The extent to which these new missiles are operational is unclear, according to Russell Xiao of Jamestown Foundation. However, China's missile buildup will have a “profound impact” on U.S. interests in the region, he writes in an analysis.
According to Tsai, the PLA has more than 1,400 missiles aimed at Taiwan.