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Taiwan eyes further U.S. arms purchases with new anti-ship missile

TAIPEI, May 28 (Reuters) - Taiwan plans to buy land-based Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles as part of its military modernisation efforts, its defence ministry said on Thursday, the latest purchase from the United States to deal with a rising threat from China.

The United States, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the democratic island with the means to defend itself.

China, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, routinely denounces U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Answering questions in parliament, Deputy Defence Minister Chang Che-ping confirmed that Taiwan was planning to buy Harpoon missiles from the United States to serve as a coastal defence cruise missile.

If the United States agrees to sell the Harpoons, Taiwan should receive them in 2023, Chang added.

Taiwan has been bolstering its defences in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near Taiwan.

While Taiwan's military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own such as stealth fighters.

The U.S government last week notified Congress of a possible sale of advanced torpedoes to Taiwan worth around $180 million, further souring already tense ties between Washington and Beijing.

China has denounced the Trump administration's increased support for Taiwan. Beijing believes Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is a separatist bent on declaring the island's formal independence.

Tsai said Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by Gareth Jones)