Taiwan may be interested in buying decommissioned M1 tanks from the US, but only when it has the money. (Photo courtesy of the US Army)
Kao Hua-chu, Taiwan's defense minister, says the country's heavy investment of the country in upgrading its fleet of 145 F-16A/B fighters is squeezing the budget for buying other weapons systems, the national Central News Agency reported on Oct. 24.
Asked by opposition lawmaker Tuan Yi-kang about the possibility of Taiwan procuring American-built M1 Abrams tanks decommissioned after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kao said the country's military will buy those tanks when it has the money.
Taiwan possesses about 450 locally built CM11 tanks and 300 M60 series American tanks from the Cold War-era, leading former deputy defense minister Chao Shih-chang to say that the country will need to purchase at least 200 advanced tanks to close the gap with China's People's Liberation Army.
"The ministry needs to consider both its allocated budget and the country's primary defense needs when procuring arms from the US," stressed Kao. "For example, the US was willing to sell M109 self-propelled howitzers to Taiwan in 2002. However, at the time, Taiwan's priority was not to update weapons for the Army."
Kao said the country's infrastructure, such as roads, highways and bridges needed to be evaluated before acquiring a heavy tank like the M1 Abrams from the United States.
Asked by opposition lawmaker Lin Chia-lung if Taiwan would develop its own advanced aircraft, Kao said Taiwan will not purchase any defensive weapons or equipment that it can build by itself, but that the country is not yet able to develop its own next-generaton military aircraft.
Kao Hua-chu 高華柱
Tuan Yi-kang 段宜康
Lin Chia-lung 林佳龍