|A Taiwanese F-16 lands at Hualien AFB|
The planned purchase by China of S-400 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) from Russia, which this newspaper first reported in March last year, is one of many reminders that despite warmer relations in the Taiwan Strait, China is relentless in its efforts to achieve complete military dominance over Taiwan.
As Defense News reported this week, Beijing is in talks with Moscow for the acquisition of the S-400, which has a range of 400km. If everything goes as planned, the missiles could be deployed as early as 2017. At present, China’s air defenses in its Fujian Province rely primarily on the S-300 PMU2 and the HQ9, a local variant of the S-300. Both have a range of about 200km, which puts parts of northwestern Taiwan within range, while ensuring complete coverage within China’s side of the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
With the deployment of the S-400, all of Taiwan would fall within range of Chinese missiles, which would put Taiwan’s aircraft at great risk from the moment they take off. Because negotiations are ongoing, it is not yet known how many systems the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intends to purchase and whether this would be sufficient to threaten Taiwan’s airspace. Furthermore, Taiwan cannot rule out the possibility that the S-400 will not be deployed in Fujian Province, but rather near major cities or critical military installations further inland.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.