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Taiwan

Taiwan risks Beijing’s anger after setting date for arms sales meeting with US

Mainland authorities have long pushed for end to defence review where Taipei submits list of weapons it wants to buy from America

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 10:49pm

Taiwanese and US military officials will meet next month to discuss Taiwan’s shopping list of arms that it hopes to acquire from the United States, in a move sure to anger Beijing.

Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan revealed the timing of the defence review meeting at a legislative committee session on Wednesday, but he did not specify when and where it will take place.

The meeting, which has been held since 2003, is the official channel for the Taiwan government to submit its list of arms it intends to procure from the United States.

It will be first time for the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, to submit such a list since she took office in May last year.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act enacted by the US Congress after Washington broke diplomatic ties with Taipei and established them with Beijing in 1979, the US government is legally obliged to provide

Taiwan with weapons to enable it to maintain sufficient self-defence capabilities.

Beijing has long sought to end the practice.

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In June, the US government notified Congress of its decision to supply Taiwan with arms worth some US$1.4 billion, including missiles, torpedoes and electronic warfare systems.

Earlier this year, Tsai revealed her government’s intention to also procure fifth generation Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter aircraft from the United States.

Due to the expensive price tag and upkeep costs of the aircraft, however, critics have questioned the necessity.

In addition to buying weapons from the United States, Tsai’s government has vowed to build indigenous weapon systems with minimum foreign assistance.

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The air force plans to build 66 indigenous advanced attack trainers to replace its ageing AT-3 Tzu Chung attacker trainers and F-5E/F Tigers.

It hopes to see the completion of the prototypes of the aircraft in 2019, the start of mass production in 2023 and reception of the last batch in 2026.

The air force also hopes that the experience it gains from building the advanced trainers will help it to develop and produce the prototype of the third generation of fighter jet, which officials estimated will take at least 15 more years.