Taiwan only wants 2 US warships: Defence Minister

Taiwan only wants 2 US warships: Defence Minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan currently plans to buy only two Perry-class frigates from the United States despite the latter having offered to sell four of them, Defense Minister Yen Ming said yesterday.

"The government originally requested to buy more than four of the warships from the US, however, we have now decided that we only need two for the time being after a review of the procurement plan," Yen told lawmakers during a legislative hearing yesterday.

The minister made the comments in response to lawmakers' questions regarding the military's plan to replace its existing fleet of aging frigates with new ones.

Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives approved legislation paving the way for the US to sell four Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates to Taiwan.

The bill titled "The Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2014" still needs to pass the US Senate.

The four frigates set to be sold to Taiwan are the USS Taylor (FFG-50), USS Gary (FFG-51), USS Carr (FFG-52) and USS Elrod (FFG-55).

The four warships were commissioned between 1984 and 1985 and, except for the USS Gary, which was decommissioned in March, all are in active service.

Commenting on the four frigates yesterday in a legislative hearing, lawmakers demanded that the ministry not buy all four vessels if they believe they only need two.

Lawmakers also said it is not worth it to buy all four frigates because they are relatively old and because the move would mean the military will have a limited budget to use in building its own weapons systems.

In response, Yen, who fielded questions during the hearing, stressed that Taiwan will acquire only the number that it needs.

The R.O.C. military said last November that it is scheduled to receive its first two Perry-class frigates from the US in 2015 to replace its existing fleet of aging frigates.

US to Help Taiwan Build Subs

Meanwhile, Yen yesterday confirmed that the US will support Taiwan's plan to build diesel-electric submarines itself.

"The US recognizes our plan to build our own submarines and it will offer assistance to us (in doing so)," Yen told lawmakers at the hearing.

Yen made the comments after President Ma Ying-jeou last Wednesday urged Washington to help Taipei build submarines to strengthen the island's defense capabilities.

Ma made the call during a video conference hosted by the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) when asked about Taiwan's weapons procurement plans.

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