Tue, Mar 04, 2008 - Page 1 News List

US abandons plan to let Taiwan build anti-sub aircraft

, DPA, Taipei

The US has dropped plans to allow eight of the 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft the nation plans to buy from the US be assembled in Taiwan, local media reported yesterday.

The Chinese language United Daily News, quoting an unnamed military source, said the US, taking advantage of the scrapping of Taiwan Goal -- an arms firm that would have been in charge of the P-3C deal -- had withdrawn its promise to let eight of the 12 aircraft be assembled in Taiwan.

The source said that under an industrial cooperation agreement signed in December, the US agreed that four of the 12 P-3Cs would be made in the US, while the remaining eight and a flight simulator, would be manufactured in Taiwan.

Other industrial cooperation items included the construction of a P-3C maintenance center in Taiwan and transferring maintenance technology.

But after Taiwan announced the decision to disband the arms firm, the US said that all 12 P-3Cs would be made in the US and that only maintenance technology would be transferred.

The government secretly set up Taiwan Goal in January to conduct arms purchases with foreign countries, but decided to scrap it after the opposition accused members of the Democratic Progressive Party of seeking to make personal gains from the firm.

It was not clear if the government would accept the US change to the industrial cooperation agreement, which leaves the nation short-changed because the US is not lowering the price of the P-3Cs.

The nation is seeking to buy 12 P-3Cs from Lockheed Martin as part of an arms deal approved by US President George W. Bush in 2004. The deal also includes the sale of eight conventional submarines and six batteries of the PAC-3 anti-missile defense system.

In related news, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday appeared unconcerned that a French company was preparing to sell crucial missile and radar technology to Pakistan, a move that could compromise the nation's defense capabilities.

The Associated Press reported last week that the French state arms export agency was preparing to sell MICA air-to-air missiles and Thales RC400 radars to Pakistan for use on its JF-17 fighter jets, a plane being jointly developed with China.

In a letter to the Taipei Times printed today, a defense correspondent with Jane's Information Group, Reuben Johnson, alleges that the technology could fall into Chinese hands and render Taiwan's Mirage 2000 aircraft useless.

Ministry spokeswoman Chih Yu-lan (池玉蘭) told the Taipei Times that France signed a confidential contract with Taiwan when it sold Mirage fighters to the country in 1992.

She said that Taiwan's Mirage 2000 fighters would retain their effectiveness because while France might help other countries develop military technology, the confidential technology used in the Mirage 2000 systems would be not be leaked under the contract.

Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief for Defense News magazine, said the news was just "another example of China gaining access to technology through the backdoor."

Additional reporting by Rich Chang and staff writer

Also see: EDITORIAL: The KMT is killing national defense

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