Taiwan will receive two coastal minehunter ships from the United States this year as part of an arms deal that has upset Washington’s ties with Beijing, media reported on Monday.
The Osprey class vessels, capable of finding, classifying and destroying naval mines, will help Taiwan enhance its anti-blockade capabilities in case of war with former rival China, the Liberty Times reported.
When the arms deal was first announced by the United States in 2010, Beijing retaliated swiftly, suspending military exchanges and security talks with Washington.
The project, which will cost Taiwan Tw$3.1 billion ($104.73 million), has now been launched in the US to reactivate the two retired minehunters, with delivery expected in the middle of this year, the Liberty Times said.
Taiwan’s navy declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP, citing a long-standing policy of not discussing arms purchases with the media.
The sale of the two vessels is part of a $6.4 billion arms deal that also includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and communications equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet of fighter jets.
Beijing still sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has governed itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.
China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced weapons, largely from the United States.