Thursday, October 22, 2009

Taiwan expects Black Hawk deal after Obama's China trip




Taiwan is confident that the United States will announce the sale of Black Hawk helicopters after President Barack Obama's November visit to China, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said yesterday.Good news could be expected some time before Christmas or even before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, Kao said. He admitted the U.S. would be unlikely to make the announcement before Obama met China's President Hu Jintao, since arms sales to Taiwan always provoke loud protest from Beijing.

The procurement of the 60 helicopters was still being treated by the U.S. Congress, Kao said, but he expressed optimism about the deal going ahead once Obama's China trip was over.The military would transfer 15 of the Black Hawks to the Ministry of Interior for use in disaster relief, Kao said. He rejected accusations from opposition Democratic Progressive Party legislators that President Ma Ying-jeou was refocusing the military away from national defense to disaster work, describing the latter as just one of its many tasks, but not its only one.

The minister also denied reports that he had ordered the closure of an office in the U.S. entrusted with trying to buy submarines for Taiwan. One administrator and one submarine expert were still at work in the office, the Navy said.He also told lawmakers he could consider sealing the French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets because they flew fewer hours than their Chinese counterparts but cost more in maintenance. The suggestion was made by Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Yu-fang yesterday.

DPP legislator Tsai Huang-liang disagreed, saying that dumping the Mirage jets before acquiring the new F-16C/D jets from the U.S. amounted to surrendering to China.Kao said he had ordered the Air Force to contact the French manufacturers of the Mirage about improving the quality of some airplane parts, but that a decision about stopping the use of the jets would only come after a long and careful evaluation process.

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