Friday, March 22, 2013

Taiwan concerned about China's DF-16 missile deployment

The National Security Bureau (NSB) has been keeping close tabs on China's Dongfeng (DF)-16 missile deployment, particularly as the weapon is known for its pinpoint accuracy, the bureau's chief said Wednesday.

NSB Director-General Tsai Teh-sheng made the remark in response to a comment by ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who drew attention to a recent Chinese media report that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had begun relocating its DF-16 missiles to China's southeastern coastal region opposite Taiwan.

Lin said that to the best of his knowledge, the DF-16 missile base is in Huangshan City's Qimen area in Anhui Province, central China.

But the PLA's Second Artillery Corps has deployed DF-16 missiles along China's southeastern coast, Lin said at a session of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, citing the February news report.

"Does the relocation (of the weaponry) carry special significance for a security threat to Taiwan, given the missile's 1,000-km range and its pinpoint precision?" Lin asked.

In response, Tsai said the DF-16 ballistic missile is designed mainly to prevent foreign intervention.

"We have been closely monitoring the missile's development and deployment," Tsai said.

The reported relocation of the DF-16 missiles most likely is for training purposes only, Tsai said. There is still no enough evidence to indicate that this type of missile will be deployed in China's southeastern coastal region indefinitely, he added.

The DF-16 has considerable destructive power and a longer range than the other types of missiles China has aimed at Taiwan, according to military sources. The deployment of the new weapon in coastal China areas could represent a severe threat to Taiwan's security, the sources said.

Touching on China's aircraft carrier development plan, Tsai said the first Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning has taken nine trial voyages and its jets have completed take-off and landing tests.

"But it will still take three to four years before the Liaoning can form a battle group," Tsai forecast.

While China plans to build two new mid-size aircraft carriers between 2013 and 2015, there are technological obstacles to its goal of assembling three aircraft carrier groups by 2020, he said.

On the question of whether China is likely to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Tsai said that is a possibility.

"Mainland China indeed has such a plan," Tsai said, adding that whether it can realize that goal will depend on its technological maturity.

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