Mon, May 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Visits help US military ties: MND

FREQUENT FLIERS:During their visits, US military officials have interacted with their Taiwanese counterparts, viewed exercises and evaluated the nation’s defense abilities

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The nation’s military ties with the US have improved with frequent visits, while Taiwan is in the process of acquiring key defense systems from the US including attack helicopters, frigates and missile systems, the Ministry of National Defense said.

About 1,000 US military officials made 140 visits to Taiwan last year, and about 900 Taiwanese military officials made 170 visits to the US for military exchanges and cooperation, according to a defense report to be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review today.

The report outlines goals and strategies to develop a new Taiwan-US framework in response to renewed US-China ties.

The frequent bilateral visits suggest a close relationship between Taipei and Washington, and US officials have interacted with ministry officials, observed military exercises held by Taiwanese armed forces and helped evaluate the nation’s defense capabilities, the ministry said.

“Bilateral military relations have expanded from the simple acquisition of ‘hardware’ weapons to an interactive mechanism where ‘software’ and ‘hardware’ are given equal importance,” the report says.

It is the first time that the ministry has disclosed the number of officials involved in military exchanges between Taiwan and the US.

Military exchanges with the US include 10 categories: policy discussion, arms sales, academic exchange, intelligence sharing, combat training, supply and logistics, cyberwarfare, armament management, defense capabilities evaluation and training.

The ministry is to facilitate visits to Taiwan this fiscal year by high-level US military officials with policymaking authority in line with the US National Defense Authorization Act, which says that the US secretary of defense should enact a program of exchanges between senior Taiwanese and US military officers and officials to improve military-to-military relations.

Following a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) last month, Washington has maintained regular interaction with Taipei in terms of security issues, and Taiwan is seeking to hold talks with the US concerning the US-China Comprehensive Dialogue framework set up to revamp the existing US-China structure.

Nine arms deals are being conducted, including the acquisition of AH-64E Apache helicopters, UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, AAV-7 Assault Amphibious Vehicles, short-range portable air-defense missile systems, Raytheon Phalanx close-in weapons systems and P-3C Orion aircraft, as well as upgrading the nation’s F-16 jets and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile systems.

The acquisitions and upgrade are expected to substantially improve Taiwan’s overall defense capabilities, the report says.

The ministry said it would seek to acquire more weapons from the US, although it is expected that Beijing would continue to manipulate cross-strait relations in a bid to influence US policy over arms sales to Taiwan.

The ministry is also seeking active participation in the US’ new Asia-Pacific policy to contribute to regional cooperation, counterterrorism and humanitarian aid.

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