Taiwan News: Defense Officials Eye Purchase of US-Made Helicopters & Mines

Taiwan News: Defense Officials Eye Purchase of US-Made Helicopters & Mines
Credit: US Navy / Public Domain
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Defense officials said the military is hoping to purchase MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopters and MK-62 Quickstrike Mines from the United States.

According to the Department of Strategic Planning, the island's armed forces are interested in the weapon systems because they fit into plans to strengthen Taiwan's asymmetric warfare capabilities amid the growing military threat from China.

However, defense officials say the U.S. is currently refusing to sell the weapons systems to Taiwan and further evaluations are ongoing.

US_Navy_040705-N-1050K-004_A_MK_62_Quick
Credit: US Navy / Public Domain
A MK 62 Quick Strike mine is deployed from the wing of a P-3C Orion aircraft during a US Navy training exercise in the Gulf of Thailand.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout is designed to provide reconnaissance, aerial fire support and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.

The MK-62 Quickstrike Mine is a new-generation aircraft-deployed weapons system designed to target submarines and surface vessels.

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The Taiwan Railways Administration says the Japanese manufacturer of the Puyuma train model involved in the October 21 derailment will immediately fix a design flaw.

The flaw was exposed by the accident. Crash investigators have determined the train did not automatically alert the dispatch control room when the driver turned off the automatic train protection (ATP) system.

The system is designed to prevent trains from traveling at excessive speeds.

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Credit: 捷利 / CC BY-SA 3.0
A Puyuma Express train at Shulin Station in New Taipei.

Although there is an ATP system in every train and remote control systems in the Shulin and Hualien depots sending messages to the dispatch control room, the two were never connected.

The railway's administration says a subsidiary of the Central Japan Railway Company will test how the remote monitoring system can work and a timeframe will then be set to install the feature on all of its Puyuma Express trains.

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Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said Taiwan would consider allowing U.S. warships to dock on Taiping Island in the South China Sea for the purpose of humanitarian aid.

Speaking at a legislative session, Yen said such a scenario remains hypothetical, but U.S. Navy vessels could dock on the island for humanitarian purposes that are consistent with the interests of Taiwan's 23 million people.

However, Yen said Taiwan would not be as open to such an idea if it would affect regional security and stability.

Yen also told lawmakers that the defense ministry has not received any information about reports the U.S. is planning to conduct military exercises in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea later this month.

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The Ocean Affairs Council says a planned live-fire exercise on Taiping Island will go ahead as scheduled despite calls by the Kuomintang (KMT) to postpone the drill until after the November 24 local elections.

According to council head Hwung Hwung-hweng (黃煌煇), the annual routine drill has been in the planning stages since December of last year and will be carried out on November 21 through 23 to test the coastguard's combat readiness.

RTSTSM7
Credit: Reuters / Fabian Hamacher
An aerial view of Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, in the South China Sea.

Hwung said it would be awkward to reschedule the drill it at the last minute due to logistical reasons.

However, the Coast Guard Administration said it will evaluate the situation to ensure that the drill does not escalate regional tensions.

The Coast Guard Administration usually holds four live-fire exercises in waters near Taiping in March, May, August and November each year.

This month's drill has sparked concern not only because of its timing so close to the elections, by also due to reports of possible U.S. exercise in the South China Sea later this month.

Read More: ANALYSIS: Here's Why the ROC Agrees with the PRC in the South China Sea

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Law enforcement agencies are continuing to step-up investigations into local election crime.

The National Police Agency (NPA) said it has raided 24 locations, arrested 40 suspects and seized 73 mainframe computers and NT$1.64 million (US$53,330) in cash in a recent crackdown on election gambling.

According to the agency, some NT$9.73 billion (US$316.2 million) has been put into betting on the election races.

NPA Deputy Director General Chiu Feng-kuang (邱豐光) said tighter security measures have been put in place at 3,132 campaign headquarters, 376 centers housing candidate support groups and at 1,269 business offices set up by candidates across the island.

Meanwhile, Deputy Justice Minister Chang Tou-hui (張斗輝) said that as of last Friday some 2,045 cases of alleged election bribery involving 4,273 people had been handed to prosecutors.

There have also been 256 cases of alleged election-related violence reported involving 340 people.

The Investigation Bureau says it will probe all allegations of election bribery based on the intelligence it receives.

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Representatives of the solar power panel industry dismissed questions about the safety of their products, saying the use of solar panels is not toxic for the environment.

The statement follows claims made by nuclear power supporter Liao Yen-peng (廖彥朋) during a televised debate. Liao backs a referendum which is aiming to scrap the government's plans to make Taiwan a 'nuclear-free homeland by 2025.'

According to Liao, installing solar power panels over reservoirs could be risky because of the toxicity of the panels' coatings. However, the Bureau of Energy said Liao's claims are inaccurate and could hurt both the installation of solar panels domestically and the export-oriented industry.

The head of the PV Generation System Association said solar panel floats are made of high-density polyethylene that withstands temperatures of up to 100 degrees and does not release organic solvents at room temperature.

Solar power panel industry officials say some 480 gigawatts of solar panels have been installed in over 200 countries around the world, and no toxic-related incidents have been reported.

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National Taiwan University (NTU) President-elect Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) says he could seek to end his ongoing dispute with the Ministry of Education after the November 24 local elections.

According to Kuan, if the election results force the government to change its policy, he will reconsider the university's plans to refuse to hold a new presidential ballot.

The Ministry of Education asked NTU to hold a new election in May, but the school has so far refused to comply with that order.

Although Kuan is claiming his withdrawal is related to the outcome of the local elections, it comes after reports said that documents exist showing evidence that the university's election process was flawed.

The alleged documents reportedly show that several members of the university's selection committee violated guidelines by soliciting support for Kuan.

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Credit: 蕭茜晴/端傳媒

Read More: Does NTU's Academic Autonomy Rally Reflect Democracy’s Failure?

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Kuomintang lawmakers say they plan to support protests next week in support of opposition to government plans to plan to ban the sale of gasoline-fueled scooters by 2035.

KMT caucus deputy secretary-general John Wu (吳志揚), KMT Taoyuan Mayoral candidate Apollo Chen (陳學聖) and lawmaker Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) said the policy poses a threat to related sectors and will affect the livelihoods of a million people.

According to Chen, who is the KMT's mayoral candidate for Taoyuan, the government should focus its efforts its anti-air pollution efforts on big factories rather than on scooters, as they produce only 4 percent of the country's air pollution.

Chang Ching-pao (張慶寶), the chairman of a national federation of gasoline-fueled scooter associations, says the government should adopt a well-thought-out policy and devise auxiliary measures to help scooter drivers.

Environmental Protection Administration Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) has said the government's announcement to ban the sale of such scooters by 2035 was intended to give the public more time to make adjustments and is targeting the manufacturers of gasoline-fueled scooters.

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American Institute in Taiwan Chairman James Moriarty said Washington plans to highlight the positive role Taiwan plays in Asia and in the world next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Speaking during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Moriarty said Taiwan and the U.S. will celebrate a milestone in the relationship next year and he looks forward to further advancements across the many dimensions of that partnership.

Moriarty also says that the coming year will show why the "U.S. considers Taiwan to be a vital and reliable partner in Asia and a force for good in the world."

Moriarty arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a weeklong visit and will also participate in a joint committee meeting of the Global Cooperation Training Framework this week.

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The Cabinet has approved a draft amendment to the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease that imposes tougher fines on people caught smuggling meat products into the country.

The move comes amid heightened concern over outbreaks of African swine fever in China and an increase in the number of travelers illegally bringing meat products from overseas into Taiwan.

The move will see the maximum fine raised from the current NT$15,000 (US$488) to NT$300,000 (US$9,757).

Officials say a total of 122 cases involving smuggled meat products were reported by customs officers from October 18 to November 4, of which 71 were from China.

The draft amendment will now be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval.

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Taiwan has been listed among eight countries that have received waivers from United States sanctions on imports of oil from Iran.

Other countries receiving waivers are China, Greece, India, Italy, Turkey, South Korea, and Japan.

The U.S. announced a second round of sanctions against Iran last Friday.

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Taipei Film Commission Director Jennifer Rao has promoted the city as a filming destination, saying the biggest advantages in choosing Taipei are due to its "vitality and pool of talented film crews."

Speaking at the annual American Film Market event in Santa Monica, California, Rao said the commission is looking to promote Taipei as a co-production partner for international movie makers.

According to Rao, Taipei is at the center of Taiwan's film production industry and has assisted in the production of more than 5,000 films and TV shows, including 750 international projects. These include Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and the U.S. television series "Fresh off the Boat."

The Taipei Film Commission currently offers subsidies of up to US$1 million (NT$30.75 million) to international production groups per year to film movies in Taipei.

Read Next: Protesters Gather in Taipei to Condemn US 'Persecution' of Julian Assange

This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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