TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan has decided to buy an upgraded version of Lockheed Martin Corp's Patriot surface-to-air missile, the air force said on Wednesday (March 31), as the island bolsters its forces to guard against a rising threat from China.
Taiwan has complained of repeated incursions by China's air force in recent months into the island's air defence identification zone as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei into accepting its sovereignty.
Taiwan's air force told Reuters it had decided to buy the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles, with deliveries to start in 2025 and deployment the following year.
The air force did not disclose how many missiles Taiwan was planning to buy, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
"These purchase plans were made based on the threat from the enemy," an air force spokesman told Reuters, adding that it will continue to "boost defence capacity".
The spokesman said the air force is "cautiously optimistic" about the progress of the purchase.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry, in a report to Parliament seen by Reuters, said the decision to obtain the newer Patriots was made during a 2019 meeting with the United States during the previous administration of US President Donald Trump.
US President Joe Biden's government has not announced any Taiwan arms sales since taking office in January, though it has pledged its "rock solid" commitment to the democratically-governed island.
US arms sales to Taiwan always anger China, which has demanded they stop.
In July, China said it would put sanctions on Lockheed Martin for involvement in a US$620 million (S$834 million) upgrade package for existing Patriot missiles Taiwan operates.
China has announced similar sanctions before on US companies for Taiwan arms sales, though it is unclear what form they have taken.
The US, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but Washington is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Washington has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so it can become a "porcupine", hard for China to attack.