The first two of four Kidd-class destroyers sold to Taiwan by the United States are due to arrive at the weekend, bolstering the navy's defense capabilities against rival China, a navy spokesman said Tuesday.
The two destroyers, which were first refitted for Taiwan's use at a US naval shipyard, were scheduled to arrive Saturday at the Suao naval base in the island's northeast, naval lieutenant-commander Wu Chih-chieh told AFP.
A formal commissioning ceremony has been set for mid-December, he said, adding that Taiwan would take delivery of the remaining two destroyers in 2006.
The four Kidd-class destroyers, originally built for the Shah of Iran, were commissioned in the US navy following the Iranian revolution in 1979. They were decommissioned from the US navy in the late 1990s.
Taiwan's navy has said its combat capabilities will be greatly improved thanks to the four 9,600-tonne destroyers, sold to Taiwan as part of an arms package approved by US President George W. Bush in April 2002.
The deal infuriated China, which opposes any arms sales to the island it considers to be part of its territory since the two split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
In July the Pentagon released a report warning that China had deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles targeting the island.
It said Beijing's defense build-up could tip the military balance against Taiwan and pose a credible threat to other countries in the region.
Analysts say Taiwan's navy badly needs the destroyers, which will be armed with Standard II missiles and a system capable of simultaneously tracking dozens of incoming airborne threats.
The surface-to-air missiles have a range of 144 kilometers (90 miles) and vastly outperform the Standard I missiles deployed on Taiwan's Perry-class frigates.
Cross-strait tensions have increased since Chen Shui-bian of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency in 2000, ending the Kuomintang's 51-year grip on power. He was re-elected last year.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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