DEFENCE

Taiwan to receive first batch of Apache helicopters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 10:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 10:45pm
AFP

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Taiwan is set to receive the first batch of attack helicopters ordered from the United States next month, after the US government ended its two-week shutdown, a report said yesterday.

The US$6.5 billion arms deal, including a fleet of 30 advanced Apache Longbow helicopters, was announced in 2008, causing anger in Beijing, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and opposes arms sales to the island.

The first six Apache AH-64Es, the latest variant of one of the world's most powerful attack helicopters, were expected to be delivered to the port of Kaohsiung early in November, the Central News Agency said, citing unnamed military sources.

The Taiwanese army would become the first force outside the US to introduce the variant, the report added.

Delivery was originally set for October but has been delayed by the US government shutdown.

The US government reopened for business on Thursday after US President Barack Obama signed a bill ending the two-week shutdown and extending the Treasury's borrowing authority.

The second batch of Apache AH-64Es were scheduled to arrive in December while the remaining ones would be delivered by the end of 2014, the report said without elaborating. Defence officials in Taiwan did not comment on the report.

Taiwan and the mainland split in 1949 after a civil war. However, Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, prompting Taipei to seek more weaponry, mainly from the US.

Tensions between the two sides have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a platform of rapprochement with the central government.

But Ma has stressed that Taiwan needs to maintain sufficient self-defence and will continue to acquire arms from the US.

The European Union also has maintained an arms embargo against China since the Tiananmen crackdown in June, 1989, although the ban does not cover "non-lethal" weapons sold by individual European countries.