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. US agrees to sell Hellfire missiles to Taiwan
TAIPEI (AFP) Jan 05, 2005
The United States has agreed to sell air-to-ground Hellfire missiles worth 50 million US dollars to Taiwan, US defense giant Lockheed Martin Corporation said Wednesday, a move expected to rile rival China.

"The US Army has executed a letter of agreement with Taiwan, setting the stage for the sale of more than 400 AGM-114M blast-fragmentation Hellfire rounds under a foreign military sales contract," the company said in a statement.

It would take the company about six months to produce the Hellfire missiles ordered by Taiwan.

The missiles will be mounted on Taiwan's Super Cobra AH-1W attack and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters.

In line with its practice of not commenting on arms purchase, Taiwan's defense ministry declined to comment.

"Hellfire's lethality and combat-proven performance, coupled with its precision-strike capability, provides the Taiwanese armed forces with the best air-to-ground weapon system in the world," said Mark Stenger of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando.

"In Afghanistan and Iraq, Hellfire not only proved to be superior against buildings, but was extremely effective against ships, light armor and urban targets."

Taiwan's decision to purchase Hellfire ensures its military's interoperability with US armed forces deployed worldwide, the company said.

Despite Washington switching its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States has remained the leading arms supplier to the island which Beijing regards as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

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