Taiwan has has successfully test-fired the prototype of an anti-ship missile which is being developed to boost Taipei's sea defences against China, a Chinese-language newspaper said yesterday.
"The military's Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology has successfully test-fired -- several times -- Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile," the China Times daily quoted an unnamed military source as saying.
The tests began early last month at the Chiu Peng Missile Base in Pingtung County, southeast Taiwan. The missile was fired in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, and it corrected its course several times before hitting the target, the daily said.
According to the paper, the Chungshan institute began developing Hsiung Feng III 10 years ago and has been test-firing it in the last two years but has met difficulties. The breakthrough came last month and the test fire succeeded early last month.
Taiwan has kept developing Hsiung Feng III a secret because it is superior to the Sunburn supersonic anti-ship missiles China has acquired from Russia for use on its two Sovremenny destroyers, and also because Taiwan does not want to draw attention to Chungshan institute's developing Hsiung Feng IIE, which is rumoured to be a cruise missile.
Hsiung Feng III is the third generation of Taiwan's self-built Hsiung Feng-series anti-ship missiles.
Military analysts say the development of Hsiung Feng III can boost Taiwan's sea defenses against China.
"With upgraded speed and precision, Hsiung Feng III can accurately hit Chinese warships in the Taiwan Strait," Cheng Chih-wen, editor in chief of the Defence International monthly magazine.
"I think its range is between 150km 200km, longer than Hsiung Feng II's range of 120 kilometres, but the key point is its supersonic attack capability," he added.
Cheng said China has also been developing supersonic missiles but has not succeeded yet.
Taiwan is separated from China by the 120km-wide Taiwan Strait.