China has deployed its most sophisticated missile systems to its southeastern coast in a move military observers believe lays the groundwork for a possible invasion of Taiwan.
Missile bases in the region have been upgraded and outfitted with the Dongfeng-17, the People’s Liberation Army’s most advanced hypersonic missile system, according to a military source quoted by the South China Morning Post.
The DF-17 missiles have a longer range and better accuracy than the Dongfeng-11 and Dongfeng-15 and will gradually replace the older missiles, which have been deployed at the base for decades, according to the source.
The weapons, which have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers, made their first appearance at last year’s Oct. 1 National Day parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Deploying them to the southeastern coast could signal preparations for a possible invasion of Taiwan, the source said.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it would continue to monitor the PLA’s deployments and movements, study the intelligence at hand and respond appropriately.
Senior Taiwan military officials believe the DF-17 systems' main objective was to deter the U.S. from entering the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
Taiwan’s military also emphasized that it would deploy the Patriot III missile-defense systems in the northern, central, southern and eastern regions to ensure the safety of its political, economic and military assets.
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province that should be taken back by force if necessary. It has ramped up military pressure on Taiwan by staging military exercises near the island in recent months, including a large-scale invasion drill last weekend.
It has also continued its strategy of dispatching warplanes to deliberately breach Taiwan’s airspace.
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