Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Washington clears Patriot missile sale

IT’S A DEAL Lockheed Martin will be allowed to sell an unspecified number of missiles that analysts say could shoot down short and mid-range missiles from China

By Ralph Jennings and Ben Blanchard  /  REUTERS , TAIPEI AND BEIJING

The US has cleared a sale of advanced Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan, the US Department of Defense said on Wednesday.

The department announced the contract late in the evening, allowing Lockheed Martin Corp to sell an unspecified number of Patriots, the American Institute in Taiwan said.

In a statement posted on its Web site on Wednesday, the department said the contract involved “basic missile tooling upgrades.”

The hardware, some of the best in its class, could shoot down Chinese short-range and mid-range missiles, defense analysts say.

BROADER PACKAGE

The sale rounds out a broad US$6.5 billion package of arms approved under former US president George W. Bush in late 2008, said Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief with Defense News.

“This is the last piece that Taiwan has been waiting on,” Minnick said.

China on Tuesday urged the US to cancel any arms sales plans to avoid damaging relations with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said the US should “cancel plans concerning arms sales to Taiwan and stop selling these weapons, to avoid damaging broader China-US relations.”

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Admiral Yang Yi (楊毅) told the China News Service that though developing good ties between China and the US was important, some things could not be accepted.

“You can’t just be forebearing and conciliatory when it comes to the development of stable and healthy Sino-US relations, and especially when it comes to a question of principles, you should never blindly make concessions,” he said.

‘COUNTERMEASURES’

Some US companies that sell weapons to Taiwan also want to sell aircraft and other products to China, Yang, who is also a researcher at Chinese National Defense University’s Strategic Studies Institute, said, without naming any firms.

“Why don’t we take defensive countermeasures against them? Apart from just protesting to the US government and taking necessary steps, why don’t we put sanctions on these troublemakers?” he said.

The US switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but it remains Taiwan’s biggest ally and is obligated by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to help Taiwan defend itself.

“Taiwan’s defense ministry looks favorably at the US continuing to sell Taiwan weapons for its self-defense,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Yu Sy-tue (虞思祖) said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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