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Taiwan aims for 500 missiles a year as Beijing tensions rise

Taiwan aims for 500 missiles a year as Beijing tensions rise
A Taiwanese corvette takes part in a navy drill as part of preparedness exercises. Taiwan’s extra military spending will also go towards building “high-performance” ships.
PHOTO: Reuters

Taiwan plans to more than double its annual missile production capacity to nearly 500, continuing to boost combat power amid what it sees as growing military threat from mainland China.

This comes after Taiwan in November approved extra military spending of NT$240 billion (S$12 billion) over the next five years, as tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, hit a new high. People’s Liberation Army planes have in recent months repeatedly flown through Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

Taiwan’s defence ministry, in a report sent to parliament for review by lawmakers, said the extra spending included plans to boost annual missile production capacity to 497, from the current 207 a year.

Among these are Taiwan’s self-produced Wan Chien air-to-ground missiles, as well as the upgraded version of the Hsiung Feng IIE missile, the longer-range Hsiung Sheng land-attack missile that military experts say is capable of hitting targets further inland in mainland China.

The ministry was also planning to start manufacturing unspecified “attack drones” with an annual production target of 48.

The military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology aims to build 34 new missile-producing facilities by the end of June, a move that would help meet a “production peak” starting in 2023, the report said.

About 64 per cent of the extra military spending, which comes on top of a planned NT$471.7 billion expenditure for 2022, will go towards anti-ship weapons such as land-based missile systems, including a NT$148.9 billion plan to mass produce home-grown missiles and “high-performance” ships.

President Tsai Ing-wen has made modernising the military a top priority, pushing for various defence projects including putting into service a new class of stealthy warship and developing Taiwan’s own submarines.

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Tsai has championed the idea of “asymmetric warfare” by developing hi-tech, highly mobile weapons that are hard to destroy and can deliver precision attacks.

She told a visiting US delegation this week that the military threat from across the Taiwan Strait was growing, and vowed to defend the island’s freedom and democracy.

Taiwan believes Beijing has thousands of missiles aimed at it, and PLA forces dwarf the Taiwanese military. Beijing also has nuclear weapons, which Taiwan does not.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring the democratically run island under its control.

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