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Taiwan's use of cluster bombs on military targets legal: MND

Wan Chien cluster munition is mounted on IDF fighters, combat range over 200 km

IDF fighter seen carrying Wan Chien cluster munitions. 

IDF fighter seen carrying Wan Chien cluster munitions.  (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Amid the controversy over the U.S. decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Tuesday (July 11) said that if Taiwan uses its domestically-made cluster bombs on military targets, it would comply with the law of armed conflict.

Nearly a year and a half since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Biden Administration on Friday (July 7) announced it will ship cluster munitions to Ukraine for the first time to aid the country in its counteroffensive. However, human rights groups have criticized the move because many of the bomblets released by these weapons initially fail to explode and remain in the soil for many years, presenting a serious danger to civilians long after a war has ended.

The Wan Chien (萬劍), an air-to-ground cruise missile developed and manufactured by the National Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), can be mounted on Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF). The weapon has an effective range in excess of 200 kilometers and can shower its explosive submunition on targets both on land and sea.

The missile is the longest-range cluster munition in Taiwan's arsenal. It is considered an important weapon in the Armed Forces' multilayered deterrence strategy because if it is fired from the median line of the Taiwan Strait, it can strike Chinese air bases and other military facilities in Fujian and Guangdong, according to military sources.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Major General Wu I-sheng (吳逸聖), director of the Human Rights Protection Division of the Legal Affairs Department, discussed the legality of cluster munitions. Wu said that Article 1 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions stipulates that the ban on cluster munitions applies to those countries that are a "State Party" to the convention but does not include non-signatory countries.

Wu said that Taiwan, the U.S., China, and Russia are among the countries that are not signatories of the convention. Therefore, Wu said the prohibition on cluster bombs does not apply to Taiwan.

In addition, Wu said that there is no clear regulation on cluster munitions in the law of armed conflict, so the international community does not have a consensus. Wu added that if Taiwan uses such weapons against military targets, it is a method of combat that conforms to the law of armed conflict, also known as International Humanitarian Law.