The Chinese military has turned its highly-accurate mid-range precision missiles towards Taiwan, the island’s defense minister confirmed Monday.
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has moved DF-16 missiles into position for strikes on Taiwan, Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said in an address to the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee. Feng said that he was confident Taiwan “has adequate weaponry to shoot it down outside its borders,” reports the South China Morning Post.
The DF-16, a product of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, is a highly-accurate, road-mobile, mid-range ballistic missile with a reported strike range of approximately 620 miles, reports the China Daily. The PLAAF trained with modified DF-16s during this past Spring Festival.
Xu Guangyu, a retired general and now a strategy researcher, suggested that the DF-16 missile fills “the gap that previously existed with the absence of a medium-range ballistic missile in the PLA’s arsenal.” The missiles can strike targets along the first island chain, which runs from Japan to Taiwan to the Philippines.
The DF-16 is reportedly China’s most accurate missile among the PLAAF’s arsenal of short-and medium-range missiles.
While the U.S. does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is committed to defending Taiwan in the event of an invasion or attack, by way of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Feng’s statements come just a few days after he and other Taiwanese officials claimed that Taiwan’s military has the ability to strike targets deep inside Chinese territory.
“Should the enemy insist on invading, we will weaken their capabilities by striking enemy troops at their home bases, fighting them at sea, crushing them as they approach the coastlines and wiping them out on the beaches,” an accompanying defense report explained.
The relationship between Beijing and Taipei is extremely tense. The relationship has deteriorated significantly since Tsai Ing-wen, who has pro-independence leanings, was elected president last summer. The PLAAF’s latest missile deployments are suspected attempts to intimidate the self-ruled island Beijing considers a separatist province. The Chinese civil war that led to the rift has never been resolved, since no peace agreement was ever signed.
“We will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland,” China’s Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month, and a top Chinese adviser revealed recently that voices demanding reunification by force are growing louder. In recent months, Beijing has repeatedly stated that the “one-China principle” is a non-negotiable bottom line.
China is believed to have at least 1,500 missiles aimed at Taiwan.
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