TAIPEI—Taiwan needs to have long-range, accurate weapons in order to properly defend itself against a China that is rapidly developing its systems to attack the island, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Monday.
Taiwan this month proposed extra defence spending of almost $9 billion over the next five years, including on new missiles, as it warned of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “severe threat” from giant neighbour China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory.
Speaking in Parliament, Chiu said Taiwan needed to be able to let China know that they could defend themselves.
“The development of equipment must be long range, precise, and mobile, so that the enemy can sense that we are prepared as soon as they dispatch their troops,” he added, referring to Taiwan’s missile capability.
In a written report to parliament to accompany Chiu’s appearance, the ministry said both medium- and long-range missiles were being used in intercept drills at a key test facility on Taiwan’s southeastern coast.
Chiu declined to give details to reporters of how far Taiwan’s missiles could reach, something the government has always keep well under wraps.
Taiwan offered an unusually stark assessment of China’s abilities in its annual report on China’s military, saying they could “paralyse” Taiwan’s defences and are able to fully monitor its deployments.
Chiu said it was important that Taiwan’s people were aware of the danger facing them.
Asked what China would attack first in the event of a war, Chiu answered that it would be Taiwan’s command and communications abilities.
“On this, the Chinese Communists’ abilities have rapidly increased. They can disrupt our command, control, communications and intelligence systems, for example with fixed radar stations certainly being attacked first,” he said.
“So we must be mobile, stealthy, and able to change positions.”
President Tsai Ing-wen has made bolstering and modernizing defences a priority, to make the island into a “porcupine” that is hard to attack.
Taiwan has complained for months of repeated Chinese military activity near it, particularly of air force jets entering Taiwan’s air defence zone.
China has been ramping up efforts to force the democratically governed island to accept communist party rule. Most Taiwanese have no shown no desire to be ruled by Beijing.
By Ben Blanchard