Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Time to decommission old subs

By Wang Jyh-perng 王志鵬

When it was in opposition, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spoke out against buying these subs on the grounds that they were too expensive. After President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, he at first took no clear stand on the issue. In fact, documents recently released by WikiLeaks could be interpreted as showing that he set the issue aside intentionally. Not until last year did Ma start openly calling on the US to sell the submarines.

Despite Ma’s change of tack, amid the current -competitive-cooperative relationship between the US and China, and given the present state of US-China-Taiwan trilateral relations, it is very unlikely that the US will push through the sale in the short term, meaning it could still take three to five years. That being the case, the Ma administration should come up with a workable contingency plan, otherwise the risk will not just remain, but it will keep increasing.

As for the navy, it can’t go on turning a blind eye to the risk. The vicious circle of aging equipment and gaps in training means that an accident could happen any time, suddenly and without warning.

The problem of the two Guppy-class submarines should be considered separately from the issue of weapons procurements. The subs should be decommissioned now, instead of waiting for an accident to happen.

If one of the subs were to sink, it would bring sorrow to more than 100 families. More than that, it would also seriously damage the prestige of Taiwan’s armed forces, as well as the government’s authority to rule the country.

Wang Jyh-perng is an associate research fellow at the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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