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U.S. APPROVES SALES OF LONG-RANGE EARLY WARNING RADAR TO TAIWAN

2004-04-01 21:56:10

    Taipei, April 1 (CNA) The Pentagon has notified the U.S. Congress of the sale to Taiwan of two long-range early warning radar systems capable of detecting ballistic and cruise missiles, even though the Legislative Yuan has only approved the budget for one of the items.

    Legislator Tang Huo-sheng of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party said Thursday that the Ministry of National Defense actually wants to buy two of the radar sets. He accused it of using an clever method to make sure the purchase is passed by the legislature and said it will in the future try to present the budget for another radar system to the legislature.

    Tang, who is opposed to the purchase, claims that the purchase of the long-range early warning radar is no more than Taiwan serving as a "doorkeeper" for the United States.

    According to Tang, if the United States wants to sell two Ultra High Frequency long-range early warning radar systems, it should "have to make it cheaper for Taiwan, otherwise, Taiwan cannot afford the purchase."

    In view of the missile threat from mainland China, the MND has been building up its anti-missile capability. In addition to the purchase of batteries of Patriot III anti-missile systems, it has also requested the purchase of the long-range early warning radar systems.

    The military discussed the necessity of buying the 10-story-high radar system during the process, which some have claimed could be an easy target in battle, but went ahead with purchase preparations because of the fact that with its range of 3,000 kilometers, it can monitor as far as Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang on the mainland, giving Taiwan's air defenses more time to respond in the event of a missile attack.

    The MND plans to have one early warning radar installation in southern Taiwan and another in northern Taiwan, but this plan has raised questions from legislators, who feel that the combat needs of Taiwan military only requires a range of 800 km.

    They also questioned the cost of the systems, claiming that it is a burden that Taiwan cannot afford.

    Faced with the stiff opposition from legislators, the MND had to make an estimated budget of US$800 million, appropriation of which will begin this year.

    The full radar package also includes missile warning centers, facilities to house and maintain the radar equipment and training programs.

(By Lilian Wu)

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