Workers assemble the US-made Apache attack helicopters Nov. 4 at the Kaohsiung harbor in Taiwan. (AFP)
TAIPEI — Taiwan has received the first six of 30 Apache advanced attack helicopters bought from the United States as it modernizes its military despite warming ties with China, officials said Tuesday.
The six AH-64Es — the latest version of one of the world’s most powerful assault helicopters — were shipped to the southern port of Kaohsiung on Monday, officials at the defense ministry said.
The Taiwanese army will become the first force outside the US to introduce the new model, they said.
Delivery was originally set for October but was delayed by the US government shutdown, media reports said.
A second batch of six is scheduled to arrive in December while the remainder will be delivered by the end of 2014, the reports said.
The 30 advanced Apache Longbow were part of a $6.5 billion arms deal announced in 2008, causing anger in China.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war. However, Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, prompting Taipei to seek more weaponry — mainly from the United States.
Tensions between the two sides have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform. He was re-elected in January 2012.
But Ma has stressed that Taiwan needs to be able to defend itself and will continue to acquire arms from the United States.
“Although ties with the Chinese mainland have improved significantly in the last five years, they have not changed their military deployments targeting Taiwan. We must not relax our military preparations,” he said last week during a ceremony to introduce P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft.