While Taiwan is expanding its long-range missiles, to give it an option to hit China back hard in the event of war, it has also looked to the United States to help give it more high-level weaponry.
Asked in parliament which weapons systems Taiwan wants to acquire but the United States hasn’t yet said it can, Lee Shih-Chiang, head of Taiwan’s defense ministry’s strategic planning department, named Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158.
“We are still in the process of seeking it” from the United States, Lee said. “Communication channels are very smooth and normal.” He didn’t give a further explanation.
The AGM-158 JASSM—standing for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile—can have a variety of almost 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) depending on the model, and be fixed to aircraft including F-16s, which Taiwan operates.
Lockheed Martin says the missile is designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed, and relocatable targets, and to be propelled far enough away to keep the launch aircraft well away from enemy air defense systems.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a Chinese territory and has never abandoned the use of force to take it under its control. China has ramped up military activity near the island, as it seeks to force the government in Taipei to take the Beijing regime’s claims of independence.
Taiwan’s armed units, dominated by China’s, are in the middle of a modernization program to offer a more effective restraint, including the capability to counter bases far from China’s coast in the event of a conflict. Taiwan’s armed forces have usually focused on defending the island from a Chinese attack.
But President Tsai Ing-wen has emphasized the value of creating an “asymmetrical” restraint, using mobile equipment that is hard to find and destroy, and capable of hitting targets far away from Taiwan.
Washington, Taipei’s main foreign arms supplier, has been keen to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an endeavor known within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan.”
China has long stressed that Taiwan is an integrated part of its sovereign territory, even after the latter’s broken with the mainland due to the Chinese civil war.
President Xi Jinping even said he will use force, if necessary, to bring the island under his country’s control. However, he has also said that he is seeking peaceful reunification.