The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday for the first time publicly confirmed that its US$1.3 billion long-range early-warning radar (EWR) system in Hsinchu was operational and said it had tracked a highly controversial rocket launch shortly after it blasted off in North Korea.
In a statement, the ministry said it closely monitored the launch and that the rocket’s flight did not pose any threat to national security.
“Our long-range early-warning radar system detected the North Korean rocket flying over waters about 200km east of Taiwan, and that the first and second stages of the rocket crashed into waters off South Korea and the Philippines respectively,” the ministry said in a statement.
Photo: CNA screen grab from Google Maps
Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said Chief of General Staff General Lin Chen-yi (林鎮夷) was charged with monitoring the situation at Hengshan Headquarters during the launch, adding that US-made Patriot missiles, domestically built Tien Kung air defense systems and Kidd-class destroyers equipped with surface-to-air missiles monitored the launch and were ready to respond.
This was the first time the ministry mentioned the radar system, which was built by US-based Raytheon Corp, as being operational. To date, the military has revealed few technical details about the radar installation, known as the “Anpang Project,” at Leshan (樂山) in Hsinchu County.
Lo later said that the radar system was formally inaugurated on Tuesday and has been operational since.
The installation’s development began in 1999, when US defense officials stressed the importance of Taiwan having early-warning capabilities to track Chinese missiles.
Following a series of debates in the legislature, a US$800 million request by the ministry was granted in November 2003 to fund one EWR site. In March the following year, a notification to US Congress made provisions for two EWR systems for US$1.8 billion, but in June 2005, Taiwan signed a US$752 million contract with Raytheon for only one radar system, with delivery in 2009, the Congressional Research Service said in its annual report on US arms sales to Taiwan, released last month.
Despite reports alleging that the current administration had abandoned plans to acquire a second EWR system, the decision not to do so was made in 2007, with industry sources saying it may have occurred as early as 2003.
From the onset, the program was plagued by a series of delays and cost overruns, bringing the total bill to about US$1.37 billion after three requests for additional funding.
Critics of the program have said Taiwan has paid far more than other US allies for such capabilities and accused Washington of using the EWR as a “money pit.”
Described as the most powerful EWR installation on the face of the planet, Taiwan’s radar can simultaneously track as many as 1,000 airborne targets the size of a golf ball within a range of 3,000km. The system can also track aircraft and may have the ability to monitor targets at sea, though there are doubts that the satellite-tracking is active.
The radar’s reach will give Taiwan a six-minute warning of a missile launch by China. Although defense officials have refused to confirm this publicly, Taiwan will likely share some of the data acquired through the radar with US forces based in the Pacific.
A spokesman for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) quoted him as saying that Pyongyang’s launch was “unwise” and created regional tensions.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also reacted.
“The DPP staunchly opposes any provocative act that threatens regional security,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said.
Su added that, unlike the US, South Korea and Japan, the Ma administration had failed to make sufficient preparations nor responded instantly “with the rocket already at the front door.”
“[The Ma administration] acted like this had nothing to do with Taiwan,” Su said.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang and Chris Wang
A TAIWAN FIRST: The duo are the first badminton players from Taiwan to climb an Olympic podium, and Tai Tzu-ying has a shot at doing the same today Taiwanese badminton duo Lee Yang (李洋) and Wang Chi-lin (王齊麟) yesterday won the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport when they prevailed over a third-seeded Chinese pair in the final of the men’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics. Lee and Wang, both first-time Olympians, defeated Liu Yuchen (劉雨辰) and Li Junhui (李俊慧) 21-18, 21-12 in a 34-minute final at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza. As of yesterday, Taiwan had bagged seven medals in Tokyo — two golds, two silvers and three bronzes — topping its previous best of five medals in 2000 and 2004. Taiwan moved to No. 17 in the
NO ‘ONE CHINA’ LIE: The appropriations act passed the US House of Representatives with a vote of 217-212, but still needs Senate approval and the president’s signature The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a foreign assistance spending bill with an amendment forbidding that funds be used to create, procure or display maps depicting Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China. The amendment was introduced by five Republican representatives — Tom Tiffany, Steve Chabot, Scott Perry, Kat Cammack and Mike Gallagher — and passed unanimously in a bundle with a dozen other amendments. “This is a common sense measure,” Tiffany said, speaking on the House floor on Wednesday. “As we all know, Taiwan has never been part of communist China. The Taiwanese people elect their
‘TEAM TAIWAN’: Taiwanese athletes have performed admirably and raised the nation’s profile, but many abroad still think they are Chinese, an advocate said Advocacy groups have called for the national team to compete under the name “Taiwan” at the Tokyo Olympics, while former Olympian Chi Cheng (紀政) has launched another referendum petition on the issue. Taiwanese athletes have performed outstandingly at the Olympics and have raised the nation’s profile on the world stage, Northern Taiwan Society chairman Lee Chuan-hsin (李川信) said on Friday. “Many foreign news agencies, including Japan’s NHK, have called our delegation ‘Taiwan’ instead of ‘Chinese Taipei.’ Therefore our own people and politicians should also speak of ‘Team Taiwan’ and Taiwanese athletes,” he said. “However, in Taiwan, most of the time the Taiwanese team
THE HOME TEAM: DPP Legislator Kao Chia-yu said she canceled her booking for an AstraZeneca shot as soon as she heard that the Medigen vaccine was an option President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said that she would get inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Taiwan-based Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗). Tsai wrote on Facebook that she had registered for her first vaccine dose using the national online COVID-19 vaccination booking system, which allows people to indicate their preferred vaccine brand and to make an appointment when the shot becomes available. Tsai said that she opted for the Medigen vaccine — one of three now available on the system, along with the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines — even though Medigen has yet to deliver any doses or provide a