Taiwan’s purchase of a mine-laying system from the US has sparked protest from opposition politicians as they don’t want Taiwan to become an “island of landmines,” The South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry announced last week that it would be purchasing Volcano Vehicle-Launched Scatterable Mine Systems and related equipment from Northrop Grumman as part of a deal worth $141 million. The arms sale was initially approved by the Biden administration in December 2022.
According to a government procurement notice, the mines won’t be delivered until 2029. The Taiwanese military said the Volcano systems could be used to rapidly deploy mines to repel an amphibious invasion.
“If the [Taiwanese military] knows where hostiles will be landing, it can use the system to lay landmines swiftly on certain parts of a beach rather than on the entire beach,” said Taiwan Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Chang Yuan-hsun, according to The Defense Post.
Lo Chih-chiang, a Taipei city councilor from Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang, warned that the mines could harm civilians. “With the capability to swiftly litter a large area with mines, it is possible that the deployment of the systems could turn Taiwan into the ‘island of landmines’ and no one can say for sure the mines pose no risks to people,” he said.
The Volcano system Taiwan is acquiring is designed to damage tanks and other large armored vehicles, but Lo pointed out that heavy civilian trucks could also trigger the mines. Chen Yu-chen, a Kuomintang legislator from Kinmen, a group of Taiwanese-controlled islands near the coast of mainland China, also warned against using the mines.
“There were many mines buried underground in Kinmen at that time, and many people were injured. This has hampered the development of Kinmen for a long time,” Chen said.
The South China Morning Post report said that some local civic groups warned the Volcanos could go against the Ottawa Treaty, an international UN treaty that bans anti-personnel mines. The US, China, and 34 other countries are not parties to the treaty, and Taiwan cannot sign the accord since it’s not recognized as a country by the UN.