Wed, Mar 20, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Submarine sale focus of May talks

ARMS PROCUREMENT The US plans to send a delegation to provide further details on the proposed sale of eight submarines to Taiwan

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A US delegation intends to visit in May to report on plans for eight diesel-powered submarines the US has promised to sell to Taiwan, a navy official said yesterday.

"By that time, the US will work out a clear and definite policy on the submarine deal," Rear Admiral Gong Chia-cheng (龔家政), chief of the planning bureau at the navy's general headquarters, told lawmakers yesterday. "So far, they have not met any problems in the process."

Gong said the navy plans to campaign on the behalf of the financially troubled China Shipbuilding Corp (中船), which wants to build the vessels.

"When the US delegation arrives, we will express once again our wish that China Shipbuilding be taken into consideration as they select shipbuilders from around the world for the construction of the eight submarines," Gong said.

Gong made the remarks yesterday at a public hearing in the legislature. Naval officials, representatives from state-run China Shipbuilding and civilian shipbuilders attended the hearing, hosted by an opposition party lawmaker.

Gong said the odds of China Shipbuilding getting the submarine contract were long. Reports have said the company wants to build six of the eight submarines, leaving the other two to be handled by the US.

"Years ago, we had tried to help China Shipbuilding get a contract to re-activate two mothballed Knox-class frigates that the US was to lease to Taiwan," Gong said.

"We helped China Shipbuilding get a chance to talk with the US on the matter, but the result was that the company backed off after finding there were certain technical difficulties it would not be able to overcome."

Gong also said yesterday that the submarine sale will be considered a commercial transaction.

A commercial sale is different from "foreign military sale," mainly in that it will not involve a government-to-government agreement.

In the past, the government acquired most of its weapon systems from the US through commercial sales, but in recent years foreign-military sales have become the preferred method.

One advantage of a commercial sale is that the acquisition process takes less time than a foreign-military sale

The AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters that the army wants to buy from the US are also to be sold to Taiwan as a commercial transaction, defense sources said.

A representative for civilian shipbuilders yesterday called on the government to give them a chance to bid for the submarine work. Han Pi-hsiang (韓碧祥), chairman of the Taiwan Shipbuilding Association, said while civilian shipbuilders primarily have experience building fishing boats, they're confident they could handle the task of building submarines if given the chance.

"We can start from a tour submersible," Han said. "Taiwan has become a prey to foreign defense companies mainly because we have not developed technology of our own. Taiwan should not take any more junk from the US."

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