A Taiwanese newspaper reported yesterday that the US would sell Taiwan two warships, a move that would almost certainly anger China and further undermine Beijing’s already tense relations with Washington.
The report by the Chinese-language Apple Daily quotes an unnamed Taiwanese senior officer as saying that the US Navy would sell Taiwan two Perry-class frigates, about to be decommissioned, for US$20 million each.
The ships’ sale would be formally approved by the US State Department late this year or early next year, the paper quoted the officer as saying.
The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the report and a spokeswoman at the American Institute in Taiwan said she was not aware of it.
Any new sale of US military hardware to Taiwan could be expected to incense China.
Perry-class frigates were designed in the US in the 1970s. They can be used to launch marine patrol helicopters. China’s submarine deployment in the 160km-wide Taiwan Strait is a major Taiwanese concern.
Taiwan’s Navy already operates eight frigates and has launched a five-year buildup starting in 2008, a Navy spokesman said. Taiwanese media have said the planned buildup includes eight conventional submarines, as well as an undisclosed number of frigates and guided-missile patrol boats.
Washington in January announced a weapons package for Taiwan that includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.