Taiwan has confirmed for the first time that it is mass-producing cruise missiles, despite fast warming ties with China.
"Mass production of indigenous weapons like the ones under the code names of 'Chichun' (Lance Hawk) and 'Chuifeng' (Chasing Wind) is very smooth," Deputy Defence Minister Chao Shih-chang told parliament Wednesday.
"The problems with key parts and components that had previously stalled the manufacturing have been tackled," he said in reply to queries raised by legislator Lin Yu-fang.
The Chichun project refers to the Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missile, Taiwan's answer to the US-made Tomahawk. Chuifeng is a project to develop the island's long-anticipated supersonic anti-ship missile.
Chao declined to specify the range of the missiles or the number to be put into service.
"Surely the cruise missiles will be able to boost Taiwan's self-defence capabilities," Alexdander Huang, a professor of Tamkang University in Taipei, told AFP.
"But that's it. Taiwan is unlikely to use such weapons to take the first strike against the targets on the mainland."
The cruise missiles could be launched from land or sea, and would be capable of hitting airports and missile bases in southeast China, as well as cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, local media said.
Taiwanese experts estimate China's People's Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.
However, China still refuses to renounce the possible use of force against the island in its long-stated goal of re-taking Taiwan, which has ruled itself since the end of a civil war in 1949.
The Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress earlier this year that China's military build-up against Taiwan has "continued unabated" despite improving political relations.