(Adds Lockheed Martin statement)
TAIPEI, Oct 31 (Reuters) - A consortium of Taiwan’s largest private shipbuilder Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co Ltd, U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin Corp and Italian firm Intermarine SpA have won a contract to supply six mine countermeasure vessels for Taiwan’s navy for an undisclosed amount.
The contract is 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.
An official at Taiwan’s navy also declined to disclose details of the deal.
In a statement, Lockheed Martin said the first of the ships will be built in Italy, with the other five built in Taiwan.
The U.S. defence firm said it will install and test the combat management system for the ships.
Intermarine declined to comment.
Mine countermeasure vessels, including mine hunters and mine sweepers, are naval vessels used to clear mines at sea.
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).
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)