The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday dismissed the idea of deploying short-range air defense missiles to a disputed island chain in the South China Sea.
Deploying missiles to the area could cause a political backlash and affect regular patrols of the area, Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) said.
Logistics support for defense forces on Dongsha Islands (東沙群島), also known as the Pratas Islands, and Taiping Island (太平島), the largest of the Spratly Islands, could also be affected by the deployment of missiles, Chao said.
The committee was reviewing a proposal to deploy Chaparral or Tien Chien I missiles on the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha and Taiping islands.
According to a written report compiled by the defense ministry, Taiwan once deployed two Chaparral missiles on Dongsha, but they were removed in 2001 because of repair and maintenance difficulties.
The same maintenance problems would occur if the military were to redeploy missiles to the islands, the report said.
The coast guard has been responsible for defending the islands since marines were withdrawn in 1999 to ease tensions with other claimants.
However, legislators have been pushing the military to strengthen its presence in the region amid a recent increase in tensions over territorial claims. The committee froze a NT$200 million (US$6.84 million) budget for the ministry to acquire new equipment pending a report on missile deployment.
The committee released the budget yesterday following Chao’s report, but demanded that the defense ministry complete installation of 40mm autocannon and 120mm mortars on Dongsha and Taiping islands within six months.