Taiwan considers alternatives after U.S. informs of howitzer delay

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U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers are seen during a military exercise in Pocheon, South Korea, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

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TAIPEI, May 2 (Reuters) - Taiwan's Defence Ministry said on Monday it was considering alternative weapons options after the United States informed it that the delivery of an artillery system would be delayed due to a "crowded" production line.

Washington last year approved the potential sale of 40 155mm M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at up to $750 million, which Taiwanese media said had been due to be delivered by 2023.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said, however, that because of a "crowded" production line for the M109A6, the U.S. had told it this would not happen until 2026 at the earliest.

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Taiwan is considering other precision and long-range alternative weapons systems including truck-based rocket launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) called the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, the ministry added.

It did not say why the production line was snarled, but the United States has been ramping up its military support and supply of equipment for Ukraine following Russia's invasion. read more

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, is undertaking a military modernisation programme to improve its capabilities to fend off a Chinese attack, including with precision weapons like missiles.

U.S. officials have been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so it can become a "porcupine", hard for China to attack.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan always anger China and increase tensions between Beijing and Washington.

China considers Taiwan its most important and sensitive territorial issue.

Taiwan's government rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only the island's people can decide their own future.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Ed Osmond

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