U.S. approves $120 million sale to maintain Taiwanese warships

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The United States has approved a possible $120 million sale of parts to help Taiwan maintain its warships, which the island’s defence ministry said would help ensure combat readiness in the face of China’s “frequent activities” near the island.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement it had delivered the required certification notifying Congress following State Department approval for the sale, which was requested by Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington.

It said the sale covered unclassified spare and repair parts for ships and ship systems, logistical technical assistance, U.S. government and contractor representative technical and logistical support.

“The proposed sale will contribute to the sustainment of the recipient’s surface vessel fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats,” it said in the Wednesday statement, adding the parts would be sourced from “approved U.S. Navy vendors and/or U.S. Navy stock”.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the deal was expected to come into effect within one month, and expressed its thanks to the United States for its support in helping Taiwan be able to protect itself.

“In view of the recent frequent activities of Chinese warships in the sea and airspace around our country, the ship parts that the United States has agreed to sell will help maintain the proper equipment and consumption of our naval ships and meet the actual needs of combat readiness tasks,” it said.

Neither side gave details of what parts Taiwan would be receiving.

Most of Taiwan’s main warships are U.S. made or designed.

The democratically governed island has complained of repeated missions by China’s air force in its air defence zone, part of what Washington sees as Beijing’s effort to pressure Taipei into accepting its sovereignty.

China’s navy has also been conducting increasingly regular missions near Taiwan.

The United States, like most countries, does not have official relations with Taiwan, but Washington is its biggest backer and is bound by law to provide it with means to defend itself.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)