The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly deployed advanced hypersonic missiles along China’s southeast coast, which Taiwan’s missile defense system might have difficulty intercepting, an analyst said yesterday.
Citing an unnamed military source, the South China Morning Post said that the missile bases on the coasts of China’s Fujian and Zhejiang provinces have been upgraded and are stocked with DF-17 missiles, equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles.
“The DF-17 hypersonic missile will gradually replace the old DF-11s and DF-15s that were deployed in the southeast region for decades,” said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “The new missile has a longer range and is able to hit targets more accurately.”
Although the accuracy of the DF-17 in combat remains unknown, the missiles’ ability to travel at hypersonic speeds and quickly change course could make intercepting them difficult with Taiwan’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile system, military analyst Erich Shih (施孝瑋) said.
The DF-17 missiles are designed to replace China’s aging short-range ballistic missile systems, Shih said.
Videos released by the PLA demonstrating the DF-11 missiles might have been part of efforts to push forward the replacement, he said.
However, the PLA is unlikely to completely retire its DF-15 systems, as it is unlikely to have produced many DF-17 rockets, he added.
The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it was actively monitoring PLA deployments and troop movements, and that it is fully capable of responding to the developments.
The ministry has been in talks with the US about purchasing upgraded missile systems, including the Boeing-made AGM-84 standoff land attack missile-expanded response system, to increase the range of its defense perimeter, sources said.
The Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology has developed the Hsiung Feng IIE surface-to-surface cruise missile system, and although exact details about it remain classified, it is believed to have a range of more than 1,000km, they said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) — who is also the convener of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee — said that the estimated 2,000km-range DF-17 is likely intended to be used against “other countries,” who would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a conflict.
While the situation should be monitored, it is not necessary to overstate China’s capabilities, he said.
If Beijing hoped to attack Taiwan, the PLA would need to rely on its air and land-based forces, he said, adding that invading Taiwan was likely still beyond its capabilities.
If the DF-17 is targeted at Japan, the US or other countries in the region, China could be seen as a troublemaker, and several countries could align to contain it, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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