President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said that Taiwan badly needs a new generation of submarines to beef up its naval fleet.
“Our existing submarines are all very old and need renewal,” Ma said while meeting with a US congressional delegation headed by Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Royce paid a visit to a naval base in Greater Kaohsiung on Sunday and boarded the Guppy-class submarine Sea Lion, Ma said.
“We acquired that warship more than 40 years ago,” he said. “I happened to be serving my mandatory military service in the navy at the time, so you can imagine how badly we need to renew our submarine fleet.”
The delegation visited the Tsoying naval base on Sunday for a briefing and boarded two mine hunters that the US delivered to Taiwan last year after refitting them.
Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major-General David Lo (羅紹和) said naval authorities took advantage of Royce’s visit to stress Taiwan’s desire to acquire new submarines to strengthen its maritime security.
In April 2001, then-US president George W. Bush announced the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington’s most comprehensive arms package for Taiwan since 1992.
Since then, however, there has been little progress toward finalizing the deal.
Taiwan currently has two US-built Guppy-class submarines and two Dutch-built Zwaardvis-class submarines, which were acquired in the 1980s.
Ma also told Royce that Taiwan-US relations were at a low ebb when he took office in May 2008. At that time, he said, relations across the Taiwan Strait had also almost come to a standstill.
“I worked proactively to improve the situation immediately after assuming office,” Ma said.
Less than a month after his inauguration institutionalized cross-strait talks were resumed to pave the way for normal development of cross-strait engagements, he said.
At the same time his administration has spared no effort to restore mutual trust with the US through a “low-key, surprise-free” approach, the president said.
In October 2008, Bush approved an arms sales package to Taiwan worth more than US$6 billion, Ma said, adding that today, Taipei-Washington ties are in their best shape in more than three decades, and the Taiwan Strait is more stable and peaceful than it has been since 1949.
The delegation arrived in Taipei on Saturday for a three-day visit as part of a tour to East Asia.