TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Taiwan's army wants to buy 30 Boeing Apache attack helicopters from the United States, an official said Tuesday, in a deal that would almost certainly roil rival China.
Col. Dai Kuang-chao said the military opted for the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow over Bell's AH-1Z Cobra because it better suited the army's needs.
''This fits our military requirements,'' Dai said. ''The Cobra may be a bit newer but it is still not battle proven.''
The deal, worth $1.5 billion, must be approved by the U.S. government and Taiwan's Legislature.
China can be expected to pressure Washington not to approve the sale, in line with its efforts to prevent Taiwan from procuring sophisticated military equipment from abroad.
The two sides split amid civil war in 1949, and China continues to view Taiwan as part of its territory. It has threatened to attack if the democratically run island makes its de facto independence permanent.
The United States provides Taiwan weapons to defend itself, rather than offensive systems. However, it could sanction the sale of the attack helicopters on the grounds that they are not necessarily offensive in nature.
Last month, Taiwan's Legislature approved the purchase of American submarine hunting aircraft, a small part of a $15 billion package that also includes American diesel submarines and the third generation of the Patriot anti-missile system.
President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party has been pushing for acquisition of the submarines and the Patriots, but the opposition has used its narrow legislative majority to block the purchases on the grounds they would propel Taiwan into a no-win arms race with China.
Because of political sensitivities, it is unlikely that Taiwan's Legislature will consider the helicopter deal before legislative and presidential elections, scheduled for the first half of 2008.
Chen and the DPP argue that Taiwan must rapidly strengthen its military to combat a decade-long Chinese arms buildup and safeguard the island from possible attack.