Taiwan wants to buy U.S. destroyers

Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s military said Tuesday it wants to buy four destroyers from the United States, warships that could greatly complicate any plans China might have to blockade or invade the island.

The order would include the USS Callahan and the USS Chandler, which have been docked in Bremerton. Before they were decommissioned, the Callahan and Chandler were based at Naval Station Everett. The other two ships are the USS Kidd and USS Scott, which have been docked at a Navy facility for inactive ships in Philadelphia.

The military has spent months debating whether to buy the Kidd-class destroyers, decommissioned by the U.S. Navy about three years ago. Some lawmakers have opposed the deal, arguing the vessels are designed for oceangoing combat missions, not the coastal fighting Taiwan would likely engage in with China.

But Taiwanese Defense Ministry spokesman Huang Suey-sheng told reporters Tuesday the military decided the guided-missile destroyers would “meet the battle needs” of the navy, which has been desperate to expand its small, aging fleet.

The military’s next step is to get lawmakers and the government to endorse the purchase.

Erich Shih, an editor at Defence International magazine in Taiwan, said getting the legislature’s support shouldn’t be difficult.

Shih agreed the destroyers would be more useful than smaller vessels in stopping a Chinese naval blockade, especially in the South China Sea, the Taiwanese navy’s most vulnerable area.

“You need to carry powerful weapons, and these weapons are very large. You need a big destroyer, like a Kidd-class destroyer,” Shih said.

The Kidd-class deal might be Taiwan’s only opportunity to purchase quality destroyers. Earlier this year, the Taiwanese wanted to buy U.S.-made Aegis-equipped destroyers, but the United States – the only nation that sells advanced weapons to Taiwan – wouldn’t approve the deal.

Instead of selling the Aegis-equipped ships – the most sophisticated destroyers in the U.S. fleet – Washington offered the Taiwanese the Kidd-class ships, which many naval experts deemed to be the best guided-missile destroyers in the world before the advent of the Aegis-equipped ships in the late 1980s.

One of the most attractive selling points for the Taiwanese is that the Kidd-class ships – with a relatively low price of $200 million per vessel – could be refurbished and delivered to Taiwan within three years.

Designed to simultaneously battle aircraft, submarines and ships, the Kidd-class destroyers could greatly complicate any plans China might have to blockade or invade Taiwan. The two sides split amid civil war 52 years ago, and China has threatened to retake the island. In recent years, the Chinese have been buying advanced planes and warships in a rapid buildup that has alarmed the Taiwanese.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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