Responding to concerns that Pyongyang might launch a missile that could hit Taiwan, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said yesterday that the military is capable of intercepting a North Korean missile.
“It does not pose a threat to us,” he told legislators on the Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Kao said the chances of Taiwan being accidentally hit by a North Korean missile are low.
Asked whether the military could intercept a missile if one should come toward Taiwan by accident, he said “yes,” without elaborating.
At the center of attention was an air force long-range radar installation in Hsinchu County, which detected a North Korean launch in December last year minutes earlier than systems in Japan.
Kao said that each detection situation is different and it largely depends on the launch location, the type of rocket being launched and the direction in which it travels.
Taiwan was able to detect the December launch within a minute because the rocket was flying in the general direction of the Philippines, he said. Taiwan would be able to detect missiles aimed in other directions by drawing upon different intelligence sources, he added.
Ministry of National Defense officials also said that amid the continued saber-rattling by Pyongyang, there were major maneuvers in North Korea on Wednesday.
China flew a reconnaissance flight over the Yellow Sea, while the US sent five surveillance aircraft over waters west of the Korean Peninsula, the officials said.
In related news, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised Taiwanese to defer trips to South Korea, but its travel advisory for South Korea remains at “gray,” the lowest-level advisory.
The four-level advisory system goes from gray to yellow, orange and red, which is the strongest warning.
Taiwanese have been advised to avoid non-essential travel to North Korea, for which the foreign ministry has issued an orange travel alert.
In a statement issued late on Wednesday night, the foreign ministry suggested that Taiwanese defer plans to visit South Korea for business, travel or study.
The Tourism Bureau said about 40 percent of scheduled group tours to South Korea had been cancelled as of Wednesday.
About 1,400 Taiwanese tourists are currently traveling in South Korea, and local travel agencies have been instructed to advise their clients to delay trips there or switch to other locations, the bureau said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and AFP