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Taiwan's new missile system to target Chinese air bases


TAIPEI (AFP): Taiwan is developing a potent missile system that can strike airfields and harbours on the mainland, in a bid to nip a Chinese invasion in the bud, local media has said.

The "Wan Chien" or "Ten Thousand Swords" missile system, which so far has cost nearly three billion Taiwan dollars (USD 97 million), passed an initial operating test earlier this year, said Defence Technology Monthly, Tuesday.

Each missile carries more than 100 cluster bomb warheads, capable of blowing dozens of small craters in airport runways, making them impossible to use, the magazine said.

The missile is also designed to target harbours, missile and radar bases, as well as troop build-up areas prior to an invasion of the island, the magazine said.

The defence ministry is planning to invest 15 billion Taiwan dollars in 2011 and 2012 to equip its Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDFs) with the new system, it said.

The system could go into mass production after it is integrated with the IDF jets, to reduce the risks of having to send Taiwanese jets to the mainland, as it can aim at Chinese targets from a distance, it added.

Military pundit Lin Yu-fang, a lawmaker of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, told AFP that there had been "some progress" in the "Wan Chien" project but he declined to elaborate.

Taiwanese experts estimate the People's Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.

Ties between Taiwan and its giant neighbour have improved markedly since the Beijing-friendly KMT took office in Taipei in 2008.

But China still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced defence weaponry mainly from the United States.

Washington announced in January, a weapons package for Taiwan that includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, and equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fighter jets, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.

A defence spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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