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Taiwan has put into service a US-made billion-dollar early warning radar system capable of giving more than six minutes' warning of a Chinese missile attack, a senior military officer said Sunday.
The radar, located on top of a mountain in northern Hsinchu county, started providing surveillance information after a ceremony presided over by chief of the general staff air force General Yen Ming on Friday.
"The radar is able to provide us with more than six minutes' warning in preparations for any surprise attacks," Lieutenant General Wu Wan-chiao, director of the air force command headquarters' department of political warfare, told AFP.
According to the Liberty Times, Yen said while addressing a small group of guests: "With the completion of the project, the military's airborne surveillance capability against missiles and flying objects that may threaten Taiwan has been largely upgraded."
The paper said the phased array warning system, which cost Tw$40.9 billion ($1.38 billion), is capable of detecting flying objects up to 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles) away.
"The system has enabled Taiwan to have comprehensive surveillance controls when North Korea launched a rocket in December and the mainland tested its anti-missile system lately," the paper quoted an unnamed military officer as saying, speaking of the radar's trial runs since late last year.
Taiwan decided to buy the costly radar system from the United States following the 1995-1996 missile crisis, during which China carried out ballistic missile tests in waters off Taiwan in an attempt to intimidate the island ahead of its first direct presidential elections.
"This is the most advanced system of its kind in the world... it is crucial as the Chinese communists are aiming more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at Taiwan," Chao Shih-chang, then deputy defence minister told parliament in 2011, adding it was also capable of detecting cruise missiles.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008, promising to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island. He was reelected in January 2012 for a second and last four-year term.
But Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though Taiwan has governed itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.