Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Taiwan's MND on China's Missiles

Considering the recent discussion between Dylan and I, a Taipei Times article offers some interesting new insight.
"China was producing around 50 Dong Feng [DF] series ballistic missiles annually, but ... our intelligence has found it is now increasing by 75 to 100 ballistic missiles annually," said Lieutentant Colonel Chen Chang-hwa, an intelligence analyst specializing in the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) missile development, at a press conference held by the [Ministry of National Defense] yesterday.
I can't help but wonder if the "intelligence" the colonel is referring to is the Pentagon's 2005 China report which reached this same conclusion last July.*
Chen said if cruise missiles are included, China now has more than 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan
Using last year's Pentagon estimate (650-730 missiles) and predicted annual increase (75-120 missiles), China should have 725-850 missiles in a few months when the annual count is released. I'm not convinced that China reaching 800 now indicates any increase in production.
The PLA's ballistic missiles are now also more precise, according to Chen. They used to have a 600m margin of error, but that has been reduced to 50m, giving China the capability to more accurately hit Taiwan's power stations, radar bases, airstrips and military, economic and political nerve centers.
I said in my last post that I wasn't aware of anyone attributing the reduced circular error probability (margin of error) of 50 meters to the entire missile force. I stand corrected. Either the colonel has just made this claim or the reporter extrapolated the characteristics of the most accurate missiles to the whole force carelessly. I'm not ruling out the former, but also recognize the possibility of the latter.

*The Pentagon report was actually slightly more generous, saying the increase was 75-120 per annum.