Amid Warming Ties Taiwan Scraps Plans for Developing Long Range Cruise Missiles

According to Taiwan’s Presidential Office Spokesperson Wang Yu-chi, the Ma Ying-jeou administration has decided that it will not develop missiles that have a range longer than 1,000 kilometers (580 miles), namely it will not develop “offensive weapon capabilities” that can strike Shanghai (China Times, September 1). The announcement from the Presidential Office effectively puts to rest speculation over the extent of Taiwan’s development of its secretive Hsiung Feng Missile Systems, which was believed to have a range that can strike Shanghai, and by extension shelving the island’s “offensive counterstrike” debate (China Brief, January 31; China Brief, July 26, 2007). The indigenous missile systems researched and developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, which has been carefully kept under wraps by the previous administration, has three main variants: I, II and III. According to China Times, a leading Taiwanese newspaper that carried the story in the Chinese press, the report alleged that in October 2007 Taiwan successfully test-fired a Hsiung Feng IIE missile, a land attack cruise missile variant with a range of 600 kilometers (380 miles), which is being pre-deployed at a small scale (China Times, September 1). The same report claimed that Taiwan also successfully test-fired an advanced Hsiung Feng missile with a range of 800 kilometers (480 miles) in January 2008, which is believed to be another variant of Hsiung Feng IIE, but is not yet at mass production stage (Ta Kung Pao, September 1).

According to China Times, the decision to scrap further development of the missile system was based on the consensus of a joint commission’s evaluation initiated under National Security Council (NSC) Secretary General Su Chi along with relevant departments within the Defense Ministry after the new administration assumed office on May 20. After numerous consultations the joint commission reportedly confirmed the need for the mass deployment and budgeting for the production of missiles at its current capacity for the primary objective of striking Chinese coastal-military installments, but will no longer continue follow up research to develop anti-ship missiles or surface-to-surface missiles that have a range beyond 1000 kilometers (China Times, September 1; Ta Kung Pao, September 2).

The decision comes amid warming cross-Strait ties and as the Defense Ministry announced that the government will cut $300 million in military spending (NT$ 10 billion) for 2009 (Radio Taiwan International, August 30).

In related news, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chen Chao-min will reportedly be attending the annual United States-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference 2008 from September 28 to 30, which will be held in Florida. This marks the first such meeting under the new government administration, in the past the Chinese government harshly criticized the U.S. government for allowing a former Defense Minister to attend the meeting. According to a source within the National Security Council familiar with the decision for Defense Minister Chen Chao-min’s attendance, the rationale is that the Ma administration wants to signal its intent to rebuild mutual trust with the United States, and it decided to send the defense minister rather than the vice minister to the meeting this year to demonstrate its sincerity. According to a Chinese news report, some of the issues that will be discussed are space warfare, information warfare, Internet security, and the future of Taiwan-U.S. relations after the U.S. election (Ta Kung Pao, September 1; Radio Taiwan International, September 1).