M1 Abrams tanks entered US service in 1980 and replaced M60s
TAIPEI — Taiwan is considering purchasing tanks used by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan to update its ageing fleet, the defence ministry and media said on Monday.
Taiwan remains wary of China despite a recent improvement in relations and military experts say the self-ruled island would deploy tanks in the event of a land invasion by its powerful neighbour.
M1 Abrams, which entered US service in 1980 and replaced M60s, are a third-generation main battle tank and would bolster Taiwan's fleet of about 1,200 tanks, mostly M60s and M48s.
The island -- which broke away from China in 1949 at the end of a civil war -- also has dozens of Korean war and Vietnam war-vintage M41s.
"The case is under the army's evaluation. After all, the tanks have been used for a while," David Lo, spokesman for the defence ministry, told AFP.
"A lot of issues need to be considered. To name just a few, it's logistic support, if they could work under the current maintenance system for M60s," Lo said.
The Taipei-based United Daily News said some US military equipment may be left to Iraqi and Afghan troops, others may be sold to US allies.
In reaction to queries raised at parliament, Taiwan's deputy defence minister Chao Shih-chang has said the army needs to procure 200 tanks, the News said.
Washington remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite its switching of diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.