Taiwan hails defensive capability after US approves sale of missile upgrade

13-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The United States has approved the $620 million sale of a missile upgrade to Taiwan at a sensitive moment when Beijing has stepped up sabre-rattling against the island through various military drills.

Taiwan’s presidential office welcomed the sales on Friday soon after the US state department announced a package to extend the operational life of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missiles.

Taiwan first bought Patriot missiles from the US in 2007, during George W. Bush’s presidency. Photo: CNS

Taiwan first bought Patriot missiles from the US in 2007, during George W. Bush’s presidency. Photo: CNS

The sale the second by the US to Taiwan this year would “help us to continue our defensive capability and ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait and security in the region”, presidential spokesman Alex Huang said.

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It would help the self-ruled island to counter rising military threats from Beijing in the Taiwan Strait and regionally, he said.

The US does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to supply defensive arms to Taipei, despite repeated protests by Beijing. The act took force in 1979, when Washington switched recognition to Beijing from Taipei.

Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be returned to its fold by force if necessary. It has stepped up attempts to intimidate the island since Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected Taiwan’s president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.

In a statement on Thursday, the US state department said Taiwan had requested to buy components to upgrade its Patriot missiles “to support an operational life of 30 years”.

Lockheed Martin would be the main contractor and the total estimated cost would be $620 million, it added.

“This proposed sale serves US national, economic and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” the statement said.

Taiwan would “use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defence”, it said.

The Taiwanese defence ministry said it expected the sales to be completed within a month.

“This arms sale is the seventh by the Trump administration to Taiwan so far, fully demonstrating the importance attached to our national defence security, consolidating our security partnership with the US, and jointly maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region,” the ministry said.

The US first approved sales of Patriot missiles to Taiwan in 2007 during George W. Bush’s presidency, after which Taiwan took delivery of three packages of Patriot sales. They included three PAC-2 systems in 2007, four PAC-3 systems with 330 missiles in 2008, and three PAC-3 systems with 114 missiles in 2010.

A military source said the Taiwanese military planned to use the upgraded version of PAC-2 for a live-fire drill during the five-day Han Kuang exercise, Taiwan’s annual drill, which is expected to begin on Monday.

The annual exercise is being held at a time when both the US and mainland China have increased sabre-rattling by staging live-fire drills in the disputed South China Sea.




Category: Taiwan

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