TAIPEI — Taiwan has decided to drop a plan to buy a second advanced early-warning radar from the U.S., officials said Sept. 25, following criticism that the first had become a “money pit.”
Taiwan purchased its first cutting-edge long-range radar from the U.S. in 2003, and its construction is nearing completion after a delay of more than three years.
But military authorities, citing Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu, said they would abandon plans of adding a second one to their inventory.
“The minister has said there won’t be another one,” an air force spokesman told AFP of the radar that would have been installed in the south of the island.
The current ultra-high-frequency radar, supplied by U.S. defense group Raytheon and nearing completion in the island’s north, is designed to give an extra six minutes’ warning of any Chinese missile attack.
The radar has cost Taiwan Tw$36 billion ($1.23 billion) to purchase and build over the past eight years, and the defense ministry has budgeted another Tw$4 billion at the demand of the U.S. contractor.
“A large part of the increased payment is supposed to be used in further R&D and depot-level maintenance. This is unacceptable,” legislator Lin Yu-fang from the ruling Kuomintang party, who sits on parliament’s defense committee, said in a statement Sept. 25.
“The defense ministry must stand tough in negotiating the price with the United States; otherwise, it may become a pestering ‘money pit.’”
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links with China. Ma was re-elected in January for a second and last four-year term.
But Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though Taiwan has governed itself since 1949. That has prompted the island to seek more weapons, largely from the United States.
Taiwanese experts estimate the People’s Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 ballistic missiles aimed at the island.