Taiwan confirms purchase of 60 Harpoon missiles from US

Taiwan confirmed on Wednesday that the United States has decided to sell 60 Harpoon Air Launch anti-ship missiles to Taipei, in a move ending a de facto freeze on US arms sales to the island.

Defence Ministry Spokeswoman Chih Yu-lan told the Central News Agency (CNA) that Taipei made the request to buy the missiles, worth 90 million US dollars, in 2007, and delivery was scheduled for 2009.

"This arms sale is not among the eight items we requested this year. So why its delivery has been moved forward, we have yet to find out," CNA quoted her as saying.

The US had halted arms sales to Taiwan in late 2007, in the light of the island's improving relationship with Beijing. a pro-China president, Ma Ying-jeou, was elected in May 2008.

In August 2008 Ma said that nevertheless, Taiwan would push ahead with US arms deals in tandem with the pursuit of better relations with China.

In 2004 US President George W Bush approved an arms sales package to Taiwan which included 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol and anti- submarine aircraft, six batteries of PAT-3 anti-missile systems and eight diesel-electric submarines.

Also on Taipei's weapons wish list are 66 U.S. F-16C/D fighter jets worth at least 3.3 billion dollars, in a deal currently before the US Congress for approval.

Following the visit of Taiwan parliament's speaker, Wang Jin- pying, to the US in early August to push the Harpoon sale, Taiwan officials said Bush would approve the deal after the Beijing Olympics, dpa reported.

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