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Taiwan to delay buying arms from US: lawmaker

TAIPEI, May 10, 2011 (AFP) - Taiwan plans to delay buying weapons from the United States to save money so that it can phase out its decades-old conscription system, a senior lawmaker and media said Tuesday.

Taiwan's defence ministry intends to push back the due date for buying Patriot missiles from 2014 to 2017 and postpone buying Black Hawk helicopters from 2016 to 2019 or 2020, according to a statement from lawmaker Lin Yu-fang.

Lin, a defence expert, said the delay was due to the huge price tags of the weapons as well as Washington's later than expected approval of the arms sales.

Local media said the military is tightening its spending to raise money to hire professional soldiers so that it can scrap conscription in the next few years.

The United States last year unveiled a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan, including the Patriot missiles and Black Hawk helicopters, triggering an angry protest from Beijing.

Washington has recognised Beijing officially over Taipei since 1979, but remains the island's main arms supplier.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the two sides have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

It has warned Washington repeatedly against arms sales to the island.

A defence spokesman said he could not immediately confirm the reports.

MySinchew 2011.05.10



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