TAIPEI • The United States has approved a possible US$620 million (S$864 million) upgrade package for Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Taiwan, its State Department said, the island's latest purchase from the US to deal with a rising threat from China.
The US, like most other countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the democratic island with the means to defend itself. China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, routinely denounces American arms sales to Taiwan.
Taiwan has requested to buy components to upgrade its Patriot missiles "in order to support an operational life of 30 years", the State Department said on Thursday. Lockheed Martin will be the main contractor and the estimated cost will be US$620 million, it added.
"This proposed sale serves US national, economic and security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability," the department said.
"The recipient will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defence. The recipient will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces."
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it expected the sale to take effect within the next month.
"This arms sale is the seventh by the Trump administration to Taiwan so far, fully demonstrating the importance attached to our national defence security, consolidating our security partnership with the United States, and jointly maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region," the ministry said.
Taiwan has been bolstering its defences in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near the island.
While Taiwan's military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly US-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own such as stealth fighters.
The US also announced on Thursday that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth aircraft to Japan for an estimated US$23.11 billion.
Japan had asked to buy 63 F-35A, the traditional version of the electronics-laden fighter aircraft, and 42 F-35B, the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version for aircraft carriers, the State Department said.
Japan's defence budget for 2020-2021 is a record US$50.3 billion, and is aimed at funding purchases of fighter jets and missile defence as the country eyes what it sees as threats from North Korea and China.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE