The Taiwanese government announced plans to construct two additional military bases on the country’s east coast shortly after the pro-independence candidate Lai Ching-te got elected as the President by popular vote, triggering concerns of increased Chinese aggression.
Liberty Times reported that the Ministry of National Defense needs more facilities to store and repair its land-based Harpoon missiles from the United States and its Hsiung Feng anti-ship missiles as it increases the manufacture of these weapons domestically.
According to the latest reports, the Navy intends to invest NT$1.71 billion (US$55.15 million) in the construction of the “FXN” base in Xincheng Township and the “N425” facility in Ji An Township. Both these projects are anticipated to be completed by 2026.
The announcement comes when China has been rebuking countries for congratulating the Taiwanese President-elect, showcasing its disenchantment with the result. China supported another candidate, Hou Yu-ih from Kuomintang (KMT). The result has been seen as a snub for Beijing, which has vowed to seize Taiwan with force if necessary.
In the run-up to the fiercely-contested election, which was made out to be the test of Taiwan’s democratic future, China intensified its military activity in the Taiwan Strait and its attempts at intimidating the military and the Tsai administration. Analysts believe the PLA would become more aggressive with a China-skeptic candidate assuming the Presidential role.
To combat a potential invasion by China and meet a similar fate as Ukraine, the Taiwanese government has undertaken a massive military modernization, including improving its firepower.
For instance, the Hsiung Feng II subsonic anti-ship missile, the Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missile, and the extended-range Hsiung Feng III are now mass-produced in Taiwan. The missiles can travel between 148 and 400 kilometers. The delivery of these missiles would also be completed by 2026.
The more missiles the self-ruled island state produces or procures, the more facilities it is expected to construct and maintain for storage and deployment. The latest announcement is not the first of its kind that the country has made in recent times.
For instance, the NT$2.42-billion “J125” Jinliujie facility in Yilan City and the “YSA” naval base in Suao Township are two military building projects approved last year. They are scheduled to be finished by December 2025.
In October last year, media reports hinted that the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) reportedly planned to build six military bases between 2022 and 2025. A second phase of six more bases was scheduled from 2023 to 2026, bringing the total number to twelve.
At the time, the reports noted that all these bases were intended to be equipped with the most advanced air defense missiles in the Taiwanese arsenal, the Sky Bow III, produced indigenously by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST).
Although Taipei has undertaken a thorough attempt at bolstering its combat capability, including building more military facilities, it is not the only one. Faced by an omnipresent threat posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), its main rival, the United States, is also building or acquiring access to military bases that would be beneficial in case of a potential military conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region.
US Regional Military Bases Are Springing Up Too!
With the rivalry between China and the United States intensifying by the day, some military pundits have predicted that the two countries could eventually go to war over Taiwan. US President Biden has said his government would assist Taipei in case of a Chinese invasion.
Thus, the United States seems to be preparing for it. The country already has military bases in the wider Indo-Pacific region in Japan, South Korea, and Australia. However, it has now managed to add The Philippines to the list.
In February last year, the US military secured access to four additional bases in the Philippines above and beyond the five it already had access to under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The agreement signed between Manila and Washington expectedly evoked a fierce response from China, which accused its rivals of regional militarization.
Good. Let's do it.
"On February 2, 2023, the Philippines and the United States announced a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which grants the US Navy access to nine bases in the Philippines." https://t.co/6b4ub1ILwZ
— Arleigh Frisco (@ArleighFrisco) October 24, 2023
The EDCA grants the US access to Filipino bases for joint training, equipment pre-positioning, runways, fuel storage, and military housing installation. This is not equivalent to a permanent American military presence in the Philippines. Nonetheless, China considers the US military’s increased presence in the Philippines provocative.
“There are four extra sites scattered around the Philippines — there are some in the North, there are some around Palawan, there is some further South,” Marcos told reporters at the time. By this time, the locations of the bases were not revealed.
In April of the same year, the Filipino government finally revealed the bases that the US would get access to: Camilo Osias navy base in Sta Ana and Lal-lo airport, both in Cagayan province, and Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela province, and the island of Balabac off Palawan.
The locations are noteworthy: Palawan is close to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has constructed artificial islands outfitted with runways and missile systems, while Isabela and Cagayan face north toward Taiwan. The disclosure infuriated Beijing.
The United States has not stopped here. There were reports in August last year that the US had plans to build at least 20 new air defense sites packed with surface-to-air interceptors and radars in Guam, which is a vital base of the US Military in the Pacific Ocean, and it is vulnerable to Chinese missiles.
Although some US officials themselves have assessed that China is unlikely to invade Taiwan shortly, the stakeholders in the region are carrying out their respective constructions to face off with the enormous enemy at their doorsteps. With Taiwan being in the line of fire, its additional bases suggest that its military preparedness continues to be strengthened
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