Advanced rockets will not be placed near China: report

Staff writer, with AFP

Tue, Jan 04, 2011 - Page 1

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it had decided not to deploy a new powerful rocket system on the outlying island of Kinmen, saying they would be unnecessary in the context of what Taiwanese authorities are describing as rapidly warming ties with Beijing.

The Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology is scheduled to start mass-producing the multiple launch rockets this year after having spent more than a decade developing the system, called the Ray-Ting 2000 or “Thunder 2000,” the Chinese-language China Times reported.

However, in light of the recent detente, the ministry has decided not to deploy the missiles on Kinmen, which at its nearest point lies a mere 6km from Xiamen, China, the report said.

“Since Taiwan is unlikely to fire the first shot under current circumstances, it does not make sense to place such offensive weapons on the offshore islands,” an unnamed military officer told the paper.

The ministry would not comment on the story yesterday.

The China Times said the ministry plans to produce more than 50 systems at a cost of NT$14.5 billion (US$475 million).

The weapon, which the ministry’s Web site describes as “an accurate Artillery Multiple Launch Rocket System designed to fire against amphibious assault and to enhance the firepower of conventional artillery,” will replace another indigenous rocket system. It is considered particularly useful in neutralizing enemy amphibious craft before they can undertake a landing.

It is capable of launching 40 rockets with a range of up to 45km within a minute, covering an area the size of 80 soccer pitches.

Despite the government’s claim of warming ties across the Taiwan Strait, China continues to modernize its military and has turned down calls by Taipei that it dismantle the approximately 1,900 short-range ballistic and cruise missiles it targets at Taiwan.