2 IN. DI LETTURA
TAIPEI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Taiwan's largest private shipbuilder, Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co Ltd, said on Thursday it had won a contract to build six mine countermeasure vessels for Taiwan's military for an undisclosed amount.
The bid was part of a procurement process by the Ministry of National Defense, said an official at Ching Fu Shipbuilding, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Defense ministry officials declined to comment on the deal. Local media have reported that the defence ministry's total procurement budget for mine countermeasure vessels is T$35.2 billion Taiwan dollars ($1.2 billion)
According to industry publication Defense News, Italian shipbuilder Intermarine SpA and U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin Corp have secured a contract to support the construction of the vessels.
Lockheed Martin declined to immediately comment on the matter. Intermarine also declined to comment.
Mine countermeasure vessels, including mine hunters and mine sweepers, are naval vessels used to clear mines at sea.
The United States is Taiwan's largest defence supplier and a major political ally, despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and resolutely opposes weapons sales to the island.
Asked about the deal, China's defence ministry reiterated its objection to weapon sales to Taiwan. "We resolutely oppose any weapons sales to Taiwan," the ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters. (1 US dollar = 30.3200 Taiwan dollar) (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Miral Fahmy)