Defense systems on two of Taiwan’s islands in the disputed South China Sea are capable of deterring an invasion by Chinese forces, defense officials said yesterday.
During a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy had commissioned three new vessels last week, including a Type 075 helicopter landing dock.
The new amphibious assault vessel gives the Chinese navy the ability to launch various helicopters that could attack enemy vessels, ground forces or submarines, and could also be used to deploy landing craft and troops, he said.
Photo courtesy of the Water Resources Agency via CNA
Tsai asked whether the nation’s defense and weapons systems on the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) and Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea are capable of dealing with the growing military threat posed by China.
Coast Guard Administration Director-General Chou Mei-wu (周美伍) said the coast guard, which is responsible for safeguarding the islands, is equipped with defensive weapon systems and would ask for military assistance if necessary in the event of a confrontation.
Lee Shih-Chiang (李世強), head of the Ministry of National Defense’s Department of Strategic Planning, said that the military has weapons to counter a Chinese invasion, but declined to provide details, citing secrecy.
The Pratas and Itu Aba islands are 450km and 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung respectively. Coast guard personnel trained by marines are stationed on the islands, but the ministry last year said it would temporarily post marines on the Pratas amid reports that the Chinese military planned to conduct drills in the area.
The military never revealed details of the plan, nor did it confirm how many marines would be deployed or for how long.
The islands are defended by 40mm anti-aircraft artillery and 120mm mortars, according to media reports.
The coast guard had said earlier that it would deploy 292 Kestrel anti-armor rockets on the islands to bolster defense, amid Beijing’s increasing military incursions in the region.
The rocket, developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, is a shoulder-launched weapon for armor and concrete penetration.
In addition to the Type 075 landing helicopter dock, China has also launched a Type 055 destroyer and a Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile submarine.
Beijing’s military deployment in the South China Sea has created regional tensions, National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tung (陳明通) said, adding that the bureau is closely monitoring the situation.
Taiwan, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim all or part of the South China Sea.
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