Taiwan receives first US anti-submarine aircraft

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan on Wednesday received the first of 12 anti-submarine aircraft from the United States, as it beefs up its naval defences against China, the military said.

Television footage showed the P-3C Orion patrol aircraft landing at an air base in southern Pingtung county. Water was then splashed on the plane in a brief welcome ceremony.

The other 11 planes are scheduled for delivery by 2015, the military said.

Washington agreed in 2007 to sell Taiwan the refurbished P-3C Orion patrol aircraft, which reportedly will expand the surveillance range of Taipei's anti-submarine fleet tenfold.

The P-3C fleet, which will cost around US$1.96 billion (S$2.45 billion), is intended to replace the island's ageing S-2T anti-submarine aircraft to carry out maritime patrol and reconnaissance.

Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Mr Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform.

However, Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory and has refused to rule out the use of force against Taiwan. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

Taiwan has built up a defence force equipped with weapons acquired mostly from the United States, despite Washington's switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

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