Taiwan acquires state-of-the-art US attack helicopters

An Apache AH-64E attack helicopter is seen in this U.S. Army file photo.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday the first delivery of AH64-E attack helicopters from the United States shows the bilateral security cooperation has increased, the state-run Central News Agency said.

Ma was attending the acceptance ceremony at a military base in southern Taiwan. He was accompanied by Defence Minister Yen Ming and Christopher Marut, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US diplomatic mission in the absence of formal diplomatic relations.

The first six Apache AH64-E attack helicopters from an order of 30 were shipped to Kaohsiung in early November. The order is worth $59 billion Taiwan ($2 billion U.S.) and was approved in 2008 by former U.S. president George W Bush.

Taiwan is the first international customer to receive the AH-64E.

The remaining 24 helicopters will be delivered by the end of July 2014, the military said this month.

Taiwan has repeatedly called on the U.S. for more advanced weapons to boost its defences against China, which regards the island as a breakaway province and has repeatedly threatened the use of force.

In September, Taiwan received the first of 12 refurbished P-3C submarine-hunter aircraft from the United States. Five more are due to be delivered in 2014 and another three in 2015.

In June, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Obama in California, he urged the U.S. not to sell weapons to Taiwan.

Obama told his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. clearly understood its commitment to Taiwan. The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but signed the Taiwan Relations Act pledging to continue to sell defensive arms to Taipei.

The U.S. decision was “based on its assessments of Taiwan's defence needs,” said York W. Chen, former Taiwan National Security Council consultant and a strategic expert at Tamkang University.

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