Taiwan is already developing its own long-range missiles as it seeks to gain the ability to strike back deep into China in the event of war. That said, it has also looked to the United States to help provide it with more advanced weaponry.
Talking to parliament about which weapons systems Taiwan wants to buy, Lee Shih-chiang, head of Taiwan's defense ministry's strategic planning department, named Lockheed Martin's AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) as the missile Taiwan is looking to procure.
But whether it can purchase the missiles is up to the United States.
"We are still in the process of seeking it," Lee said. "Communication channels are very smooth and normal."
Taiwan's armed forces are in the midst of a modernization program. The program is meant to turn it into a more effective deterrent against Chinese aggression. As part of this, the country is looking to gain the ability to hit back at bases far from China's coast in the event that war breaks out. This is where the JASSM comes in.
The JASSM can have a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), depending on the model. It can be deployed on various aircraft, including the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon, which Taiwan operates.
According to Lockheed Martin, the missile is designed to destroy high-value, well-defended targets while having the range and accuracy to be launched far from enemy air defense systems.
The missile's air-launched nature also falls within Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's desire to develop an "asymmetrical" deterrent. This involves using mobile equipment that's not only capable of hitting targets far away from Taiwan, but is also hard to find and destroy.
The sale of the missiles still requires approval from the United States. That said, the latter has been eager to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces. It has been building on an effort known within the Pentagon as "Fortress Taiwan." (Related: U.S. Admiral expresses worry about communist China's future invasion of Taiwan.)
China continues to view Taiwan as part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under control. It has, as of late, stepped up military activity near the island in an effort to force the Taiwanese government to accept Beijing's claims of sovereignty.
Even as it seeks to purchase the JASSM, Taiwan has also been hard at work developing missiles of its own. Last March, a senior official confirmed that it had begun mass production of its own missile.
Taking questions from Parliament, Leng Chin-hsu, deputy director of the state-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology confirmed that one long-range, land-based missile has already entered into production while three other long-range missiles are in development. Leng refused to give details of the missiles' range.
In recent months, the institute, which leads Taiwan's weapons development efforts, has carried out a series of missile tests off its southeastern coast. Taiwanese media have published images of missiles launching and aircraft have been given instructions to stay clear of the test area. But details of the tests themselves remain undisclosed.
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