Taiwan has decided not to deploy a new powerful rocket system on outlying islands near China, deeming it unnecessary in the context of fast warming ties with Beijing, local media reported Monday.
Taiwan is scheduled to start mass-producing the multiple launch rockets this year after having spent more than a decade researching the system, called Ray Ting 2000 or “Thunder 2000”, the Taipei-based China Times said.
But given the recent detente, the defence ministry has decided not to deploy it on Kinmen, a fortified island group just six kilometres (four miles) from southeast China’s port city of Xiamen at the nearest point, it said.
“Since Taiwan is unlikely to fire the first shot under the circumstances, it does not make sense to place such attack weapons on the offshore islands,” an unnamed military officer told the paper.
The defence ministry declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP.
The paper said the ministry plans to produce more than 50 systems at a cost of 14.5 billion Taiwan dollars (475 million US dollars).
The weapon, which will replace another Taiwan-made rocket system, is considered particularly useful in neutralising enemy amphibious craft before they reach the beach.
It is capable of launching 40 rockets with a range of up to 45 kilometres (28 miles) within a minute, covering an area the size of 80 football pitches.
Ties between Beijing and Taipei have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became president in May 2008, promising to improve trade with and tourism from the mainland.
However, despite more than 60 years of separation, China still considers the island part of its territory and has vowed to take it back even if it means war.