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Inside China: U.S.-Taiwan weapons deal near

- - Monday, January 21, 2013

The United States is set to sell 30 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Taiwan this year, along with 60 Blackhawk helicopters next year and additional Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems in 2015, according to Sen. James M. Inhofe, who led a congressional delegation to Taiwan last week and met with key leaders including President Ma Ying-jeou and the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Wang Jin-pyng.

The Oklahoma Republican is the chairman of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, an influential group of lawmakers. He was instrumental in getting Taiwan visa-waiver status, a significant hallmark of Washington's recognition of the country's political and diplomatic affinity with the United States. The status allows Taiwan citizens to stay up to 90 days in the United States without a visa.

"I am pleased that the United States granted visa-waiver status to Taiwan this past October so that Taiwanese citizens can visit and do business in the United States," Mr. Inhofe said in a statement.

"As chairman of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, I had introduced a bipartisan bill to designate Taiwan as a visa-waiver country, and the Department of Homeland Security responded to my request by granting the visa-waiver status. This certainly enhances our nations' relationship with each other, and I look forward to the possibility of other means to strengthen our nation's commercial, educational, and cultural ties with Taiwan."

The Taiwan newspaper United Daily reported that the first six of the 30 Apache helicopters will be delivered to Taiwan in October, with the rest to be delivered by July 2014.

The AH-64E Apache is the most advanced version of the attack helicopter. Taiwan is the only country other than the United States whose armed forces are operating this latest version.

On their visit, members of the congressional delegation also urged Taiwan to join U.S.-led regional free trade agreements.

China to track all vehicles

China's own version of the GPS navigation system, called Beidou, became operational throughout the country a little over a year ago, and China recently began offering free Beidou service to the Asia-Pacific region.

This week, the Beijing government took a major step toward the mandatory installation of Beidou receivers in all vehicles in China, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

China's Ministry of Transportation recently issued a directive to nine provincial governments, ordering trial programs for mandatory installation of Beidou terminals on most types of vehicles in these provinces, roughly a third of China. The order applies to the governments in the provinces of Anhui, Guizhou, Hebei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Ningxia, Shandong, Shanxi and Tianjin.

The order is to be carried out and supervised by the Ministry of Transportation and the General Armament Department of the People's Liberation Army, according to the directive.

The government aims to cover 80 percent of all vehicles by the end of March and the rest by June 1. Violators who fail to install the Beidou receivers could lost their driving privileges of face other punishments.

Standard GPS receivers in the United States can only pick up signals from satellites but cannot identify the users' locations through the satellites.

The Chinese system, however, could provide the communist government with a massive, new surveillance capability because Beidou requires all users to send signals back to satellites, which instantly transmit them to a central processing information center for storage or analysis.

The goal of China's Beidou system is to compete with, or even replace, the GPS navigation system. China's system currently uses 10 satellites, but Beijing plans to add another 25 by 2020 to provide global coverage.

China is the only country in the world that has been actively developing anti-satellite weapons and capabilities. In January 2007, the military conducted an anti-satellite missile test that destroyed China's FY-1C polar orbit weather satellite at an altitude of 537 miles.

The anti-satellite test boosted the military's confidence but contributed greatly to the militarization of space and the creation of the largest orbital space debris in recorded history.

• Miles Yu's column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.