KAOHSIUNG – Taiwan's president inaugurated the production of domestically made submarines Tuesday in the southern city of Kaohsiung, in a step forward for the island's defense strategy at a time of elevated tensions with China.
“This submarine is an important part of allowing our navy to develop asymmetric warfare and to intimidate and block enemy ships from surrounding Taiwan’s main island,” said President Tsai Ing-wen. “Now, with the construction of the submarine to its future commission, we will certainly let the world know our persistence in safeguarding our sovereignty.”
Tsai has made boosting Taiwan’s indigenous defense capacity a central pillar of her defense policy. Recently, she relaunched the military aviation industry with the production of new trainer jets and has pushed for the development of more sophisticated systems by utilizing the island’s high-tech industries.
At the same time, she has gained approval from the U.S. for the purchase of billions of dollars in weapons, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships and land targets.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that is part of its territory and has been upping its threats to bring the island under control by force as economic and political enticements bear little fruit. China has stepped up military exercises towards Taiwan this year, flying fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis toward the island of 24 million people, which lies 160 kilometers (100 miles) off China’s southeast coast across the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan turned to the expensive and time-consuming task of building its own submarines after Beijing has successfully prevented it from purchasing such craft from abroad in recent years through the use of economic and diplomatic threats
Only a handful of countries around the world are capable of manufacturing submarines for modern warfare and Taiwan’s move toward that step has taken years. The Taiwanese subs’ designs have reportedly drawn on foreign expertise, despite the obstacles thrown up by China.
CSBC Corp., which is Taiwan’s largest ship builder and is partially government owned, was awarded a contract to design and build the subs in 2017, in partnership with arms developer National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology.