The US weapons Taiwan wants to bolster its defences

As Washington signals its eagerness to sell more weapons to the self-ruled island, here are three items that top its shopping list

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 3:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 11:40am

A senior official Pentagon official’s comments last week that the United States is moving towards a “more normal foreign military sales relationship” with Taiwan could signal that the self-ruled island will be able to boost its defence capabilities with US military hardware.

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said the Trump administration would push for more arms sales to Taiwan, a move that would be bitterly opposed by the Chinese government.

Beijing sees the self-ruled island as part of its own territory to be reunified, by force if necessary, and criticised the announcement last month that the US planned to sell US$330 million worth of arms to the island.

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China has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since the independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen took office two years ago, while Tsai in turn has promised to increase defence spending.

In light of these developments, here are the three US items at the top of Taiwan’s shopping list.

Submarine technology and weapons systems

Taiwan has long-sought to purchase the necessary technology and parts to upgrade its ageing submarine fleet and build its own indigenous submarines.

Despite Beijing’s protestations, Washington agreed in April to allow US defence contractors to help Taiwan build its own submarines.

But Taipei will need help from other nations as well, since the US navy uses only nuclear-powered vessels compared with the diesel-electric ones that Taiwan wants.

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F-35 fighter

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engined, all-weather stealth multi-role fighter. It was designed to be America’s premier surface-to-air missile killer and is equipped with cutting-edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques and advanced target recognition.

In an interview with Taiwan media in March, Taiwan’s Defence Minister Yen Teh-fa said the F-35B matched the Republic of China Air Force’s requirements for a short take-off and vertical landing fighter aircraft.

Yen also said negotiations about the purchase had started and the island would make a request to the US after completing the evaluation of the procurement proposal.

M1A2 Abrams tanks

The American third-generation battle tank designed is a good fit to replace the island’s ageing fleet.

Currently most of the Taiwanese army’s tanks are older American models such as the M60 and M48.

The island has long discussed the need to buy M1A2 Abrams tanks, since many people raised concerns about the operational feasibility of using older and heavier models in the island’s coastal wetlands and mountainous interior.

After debating for over a decade, the Taiwanese government said on July 10 it wanted to buy 108 US-made M1A2 Abrams battle tanks, but it is unclear when the first batch will arrive in the island.