Taiwan achieved a breakthrough in its efforts to develop counter-strike capabilities against China, successfully testing an anti-ship cruise missile with sufficient range to reach the coast of the mainland.

The military fired the 300km-range Hsiung Feng III from Chiupeng missile base in southeastern Pingtung county in a series of tests in late November and early December, members of the legislature’s defence committee said on Friday, confirming a local news report.

The test confirms that Taipei is making progress in its strategy to produce deterrents instead of solely relying on defensive weapons.

China has more than 600 missiles targeting Taiwan, and the number keeps increasing at a rate of 75 a year, according to the Ministry of Defense in Taipei.

The Chungshan Institute for Science and Technology, the island’s top military research institution, has been running a cruise missile development programme for more than a decade.

Problems with the missiles’ propulsion system, identified as the reason for the failure of earlier tests, have now been solved, two lawmakers said on condition of anonymity.

Tsai Ming-hsien, deputy minister of defence, would neither confirm nor deny the test at a news conference on Friday for foreign reporters. However, he reiterated that Taipei’s defense strategy included the capability of hitting the Chinese mainland.

“We do not want to attack China but we need to be capable of striking back if they attack us,” he said. “We would not target cities but rather military installations.”

Military experts said although the latest tests had proved in principle that Taipei could reach the mainland with a cruise missile, it could take years until this translated into any effective land strike capability. It was also unclear when mass production and deployment could begin.

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