A top national security official yesterday said China had begun deploying a new long-range ballistic missile aimed at Taiwan, adding that the missile’s destructive capacity went beyond that of the current missiles in China’s arsenal.
National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) told the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that in addition to deploying the Dong Feng-16 (DF-16), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was also now fielding the DF-21, also known as the “aircraft carrier killer,” which could put any US Navy vessels coming to Taiwan’s assistance at great risk.
Asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) whether the DF-16 was a completely new type of missile or a derivative of earlier Dong Feng types, Tsai said it was a whole new type.
“It’s more powerful, advanced and has a greater range than older types of Dong Feng missiles,” he said.
Tsai said that while the DF-16 targeted Taiwan, it could also be used against other countries in the region. Those comments echoed a recent report by the non-profit global policy think tank Rand Corp on the Chinese ballistic missile threat, which listed Okinawa and Guam as potential targets. Both are home to large US military bases.
Testing of the DF-16 has been completed and the missile has been deployed, he said.
At present, China’s main arsenal threatening Taiwan consists of DF-11 and DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles based in Southeast China, with a range of 300km and 800km respectively.
Asked to comment on the possibility of the new deployment, Wendell Minnick, Asia Bureau chief for Defense News, said he suspected the DF-16 may be a DF-15 with extended range, adding that he found it very hard to believe that the US would not have noticed such a deployment.
Turning to the DF-21, Lin said he was surprised to hear Tsai claim the DF-21 had been deployed.
Western countries have assessed that the PLA would need at least a decade before it could deploy the DF-21, because the technology required to hit a moving target at sea represents a substantial challenge, Lin said, adding that he was not aware of the DF-21 having been tested.
Tsai said that while Western countries relied on surveillance satellites to gather information on China’s weapons development, the bureau had a long-term focus on the development of human intelligence — that is, spies — to gather information.
US defense analysts estimate the DF-21 has a range of between 1,995km and 2,993km. Many commentators have called it a potential “game changer” that could threaten the US carrier fleet’s supremacy in the Pacific, a contention that remains disputed.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY J. MICHAEL COLE AND CNA