Taiwan's Maritime Security

By Martin Edmonds; Michael M. Tsai | Go to book overview

8

Missile defense at sea

Options for Taiwan

Jeremy Stocker

The ability of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to mount a successful invasion of Taiwan in order to achieve enforced re-unification is doubtful. 1 But Beijing's ability to blockade the island or to attempt to intimidate Taipei through the use of missile attacks are both well demonstrated. Taiwan's defense efforts, whilst maintaining an invasion-denial posture, need to address these more likely threats.

Ballistic missile proliferation was an increasing concern for international security throughout the 1990s, 2 especially in Asia. For much of the world, concerns about China rested on its source as a major proliferator to other countries. But for some of its immediate neighbors, especially Taiwan, the concern has been the PRC's own developing ballistic missile arsenal which in addition, unlike most states, is partially nuclear-armed.

The 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis showed clearly the importance of ballistic missiles in the cross-straits strategic balance. Ballistic missile defense (BMD) has been high on the Taiwanese military agenda ever since. Taiwan is an offshore island, so maritime forces feature prominently in its defense posture. A sea-based BMD element seems almost a natural choice, but defense against ballistic missiles is a technically and strategically complex subject that requires detailed examination before deciding on the best approach.

The Chinese ballistic missile program began in the mid-1950s, and was initially based on the delivery of Soviet-made R-2 (NATO SS-2 Sibling) rockets. A direct derivative of the German V-2, the world's first operational ballistic missile, it had a maximum range of 600 km and introduced, for the first time, a separating warhead. 3 Locally produced versions were known as the Dong Feng (East Wind)-1, the first launch of which took place in November 1960. Following the Sino-Soviet rift in 1963, the Chinese embarked on an indigenous program, drawing heavily on components and technologies previously transferred from the Soviet Union. The result was the Dong-Feng-2 (NATO CSS-1) first tested in 1964, and which was used in nuclear tests 2 years later. 4

The Dong Feng (DF)-2 was soon followed by longer-range missiles that also introduced storable liquid propellants. The DF-3 and DF-4 derivatives, with ranges of 2,800 and 4,750 kms, respectively, entered service in the 1970s and limited numbers remain operational today. DF-3s were also exported to Saudi Arabia in 1987.

-137-

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