A strategist with Taiwan’s renowned Tamkang University has suggested procurement of 1,000 medium-range missiles for a grand total of NT$30 billion (US$1 billion).
With a complement of missiles that can attack targets within a radius of 1,000-1,500 kilometers, about 30 People’s Liberation Army airbases could be sealed off in the event of war between mainland China and Taiwan, Peter Su, senior researcher with Tamkang University’s Center for Advanced Technology, told a recent forum on Taiwan’s defense strategies.
All of China’s eastern and southeastern provinces as well as much of central and northern China fall within 1,500km from Taipei.
Currently Taiwan’s indigenous Hsiung Feng IIE surface-to-surface cruise missiles have a range of more than 600km, bringing some mainland coastal cities and military establishments within their radius.
The Taiwanese military has ramped up funding for developing more powerful, longer-range missiles that can put Shanghai, Guangzhou and even the Three Gorges Dam within range.
Citing the Taiwanese defense minister at the time, Michael Tsai, a 2014 report by the Taipei-based Liberty Times also revealed that during former president Chen Shui-bian’s last year in power in 2008, the island had already been trialing missiles with ranges well exceeding 1,000km.
Tsai accompanied Chen to a military base in Taiwan’s southernmost county of Pingtung and inspected a drill in which a missile flew “well beyond the typical range of a medium-range missile.”
But while having the know-how to develop these missiles is one thing, beefing up production for their swift deployment is another. Hence Su’s proposal to splurge on procurement from overseas.
A panelist asked during the forum’s question and answer session about the possibility of a pounce-like missile offensive targeting China’s key infrastructure sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which straddles the Yangtze River in the Hubei province, some 1,200km northwest of Taipei.
Su replied briefly that two missiles would do the job.
Destroying the Three Gorges Dam has been a tactic floated and hotly debated in Taiwan since the early 1990s, when the dam was still under construction as China’s No 1 infrastructure and hydroelectricity project in the 20th century.
There would be cataclysmic floods deluging cities and farmlands in central and eastern China if the 2,335-meter-long, 181-meter-high dam were to collapse after a missile attack.
But Chinese media say the dam is a steel-concrete gravity dam and the water is held back by the innate mass of the individual dam sections, thus any damage to one section should not affect other parts, and the dam could withstand the impact of a tactical nuclear strike thanks to its sheer size.
It’s said that the PLA has installed a good number of anti-air and anti-surface missiles in the vicinity of the dam plus a regional theater missile defense shield, forming a well-guarded no-fly zone that encompasses the dam and its peripheral structures.