Taiwan lawmaker: Island delays purchasing US arms

AP News
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Posted: May 10, 2011 12:51 AM
Taiwan lawmaker: Island delays purchasing US arms

Taiwan is delaying the purchase of Blackhawk helicopters and Patriot air defense systems from the U.S. because of budgetary problems, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

The statement by Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Nationalist Party highlights concerns that Taiwan's military has insufficient funds for its major initiatives, including a costly change to an all-volunteer force.

The defense ministry is either delaying buying new items or postponing payments for existing programs due to the shortfall, Lin said. The procurement of six Patriot missile systems has been pushed back from 2014 to 2017 and 60 Blackhawk helicopters from 2016 to 2019 or 2020, he said.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry had no immediate comment on Lin's remarks.

The U.S. remains Taiwan's most important strategic partner and is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons of a defensive character.

Senior officials have expressed concern that the government is struggling to meet its planned schedule to terminate conscription and turn the military into an all-volunteer service in 2015 because of a budgetary shortfall amounting to several billion dollars.

Taiwan has an annual defense budget of $12.92 billion, but rival China is spending $92.57 billion on its military this year.

China claims Taiwan as its own, although the two sides split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing is determined to unify with Taiwan, by force if necessary.