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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Taiwanese military orders German helicopters

February 7, 2010

The Guardian (UK)
February 5, 2010

Purchase of up to 20 search-and-rescue
helicopters could fray already strained European ties with China

Taiwan's military will buy up to 20 helicopters
from a German manufacturer, it was confirmed
today, days after Beijing lashed out at a
multibillion-dollar US arms deal with the island.

China has yet to respond to news of the
agreement, thought to be the first European sale
to Taiwan's armed forces since the early 90s.

Taiwan's defence ministry spokesman Martin Yu
said the island would buy EC-225
search-and-rescue helicopters. The $111m contract
with Eurocopter, a subsidiary of EADS, is for
three helicopters, with an option to buy up to 17 more.

The move could fray Sino-European ties, already
under strain over trade and currency issues.
Yesterday, China filed a complaint to the World
Trade Organisation over the EU's anti-dumping tariffs on shoes.

The arms deal could also affect Beijing's
relations with Taipei, which have improved
markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou took office
on a platform of improving ties two years ago.

However, others believe that China could remain
silent or issue only a muted response if it is
satisfied that the helicopters are not for military tasks.

"If it's for a pure civic purpose that would be
no problem, but if it belongs to the defence
ministry then I think it could be," said Jin
Canrong, professor of international studies at Renmin University.

The Taiwanese defence ministry said it was not an
arms order and the EC-225 is a civilian model.
But the Taiwanese armed forces have bought
non-military helicopters in the past and
customised them with equipment suited to military models.

Jing Huang, an expert on Asian security and
visiting fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of
Public Policy in Singapore, said China's response
was likely to depend on the exact nature of the order.

"I would be surprised if China makes a big fuss
and if Eurocopter had not considered China's
interests in its sales to Taiwan," he added,
pointing out that the mainland was a much bigger client.

"China may think it's better not to fight on two
fronts [given its anger at the US deal]. It's
also talking with ­Europeans about lifting the
arms embargo. So I believe it will be more
constrained; it doesn't make sense to make a fuss
before the deal is even finalised."

Defense News, which first reported the sale, said
the contract would be signed within a few days.

China's foreign ministry did not immediately
respond to questions on the helicopter sale.
Calls to the Taiwan Affairs Office rang unanswered.

China hit back unusually hard following last
week's announcement of the US's $6.4bn arms
package, which includes Patriot missiles, naval
minesweepers and Black Hawk helicopters. It
warned of plans to impose sanctions on US firms
that sell weapons to Taiwan and said it was
"unavoidable" that co-operation on wider issues would be affected.
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