Taiwan plans to buy two warships from US: Lawmaker

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan plans to purchase two warships from the United States as part of its efforts to modernise its forces against a perceived military threat from China, a lawmaker said on Friday.

The defence ministry has listed NT$5.6 billion (S$238 million) in its 2014 and 2015 budgets to buy two Perry-class frigates from the US navy, said lawmaker Lin Yu-fang, citing defence budgets submitted to the parliament.

The ministry aimed to buy two rather than four Perry-class frigates as previously reported by the media to replace some of its Knox-class frigates that were retired, the lawmaker said.

Ties between Taiwan and its former rival China have improved markedly since Mr Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform. He was elected for a second term last year.

However, China still claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has repeatedly threatened to invade should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced weapons largely from the US.

In 2001, then-President George Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package for the island since 1992.

President Barack Obama's administration has approved more than US$12 billion (S$15 billion) in sales and equipment upgrades, but has held off on Taiwan's requests to buy new F-16 fighter jets, a step against which China has repeatedly warned.

Taiwanese defence officials were not immediately available to comment on the planned purchase.