In light of the threat posed to the Greater Taipei region by Chinese missiles, the military has said additional Patriot missile bases are needed in the region, on top of the three already in place, in order to ensure the protection of Taiwan’s political, military, and economic centers.
The China Military Power Report, released by the Ministry of Defense in September, said that the number of ballistic and cruise missiles which China’s Second Artillery Corps has aimed at Taiwan increased from 1,400 last year to more than 1,600 this year.
Currently, there are three Patriot missile bases in the Greater Taipei region — Wanli (萬里), Nangang (南港) and Sindian (新店) — which the military says serve to blunt any potential missile strikes against Taipei by Chinese forces.
The anti-ballistic capability of the Patriot missiles, as well as the long-range radar station located in the area which boasts a detection range deep into Chinese territory, would provide the Taipei region with an effective “umbrella” against missile attacks, the military said.
Pointing to the increased capability, accuracy and mobility of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Second Artillery Corp — as well as its increased deployment of Dong Feng-16 missiles [the newest mobile missile in the Chinese arsenal, capable of striking targets from a distance of 1,000km] — a Taiwanese general, who declined to be named, said the military had concluded that the anti-missile “umbrella” would need an additional surface-to-air anti-ballistic missile base.
Saying the location of the base was classified for reasons of national security, the military declined to comment on its planned whereabouts.
With the latest plan, the military is shifting its surface-to-air missile coverage ratio from that outlined by the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at 3:2:2 — in respect of missile bases located in the north, central and southern regions of Taiwan — to a new 4:2:1 ratio.
The previous administration had promised to set up missile bases in central and southern Taiwan to offer better protection to the Greater Taichung and Kaohsiung regions, nominating six ideal locations for the establishment of the missile bases, the general said.
After President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power in 2008, economic woes took priority, forcing the ministry to aim for a first-phase establishment of four new missile bases — one in the north, two in the Greater Taichung area, and one in the Kaohsiung-Pingtung area, the general said.
The Chen administration had been focused on a balanced distribution of missile bases — a focus slightly more political than strategic — the general said, adding that the military’s current focus was based on the “level of threat” faced by various regions.
That focus helped to determine the priority of the establishment of new missile bases and is a decision based on overall strategic thinking.
“It is not placing the north over the south, nor is it favoring the pan-blue over the pan-green region,” the general said.
Political demographics in Taiwan traditionally demarcate northern Taiwan as more supportive of the pan-blue camp and southern Taiwan as more sympathetic to the pan-green camp, which is why the general sought clarify the matter.
Reached for comment, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said it was standard ministry practice not to comment on military deployments and declined further comment.