China sailing its aircraft carrier near Taiwan has highlighted the need for the nation to go ahead with a plan to build its own submarines, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said yesterday.
The indigenous submarine project would not only protect the nation’s territorial security, but also allow Taiwan to contribute to regional security, Feng said at the opening of an exhibition on the history of the navy’s submarine fleet.
In what was seen by many as saber-rattling by Beijing, the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, sailed south in the Pacific Ocean off Taiwan’s eastern coast on Christmas Day before entering the South China Sea.
On Wednesday, the Liaoning passed through the Taiwan Strait on its way back to its base in northeastern China after conducting training exercises in the South China Sea.
The last time the aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in November 2013.
At the ceremony, Feng said that the Ministry of National Defense publicized information to inform the public on the Liaoning’s movements, but stressed that “no special situations” were detected.
According to standing plans for the manufacturing of submarines, the ministry has been negotiating with CSBC Corp, Taiwan (台灣國際造船), the intended contractor, the ministry said, adding that if all goes according to plan, a prototype for the first submarines would undergo combat trials in 2024 and enter service in 2025.
Separately yesterday, former American Institute in Taiwan director Douglas Paal told the Central News Agency that recent aerial and maritime exercises by China’s armed forces near Taiwan were an example of Beijing showcasing its growing military strength and not a show of force directed at Taipei.
“As long as China’s military capabilities continue to grow, we expect to see Beijing expand its maritime activities in the days ahead,” Paal said.
Asked about saber-rattling by Beijing and demands that US president-elect Donald Trump abide by the “one China” policy, Paal said that as Trump has yet to assume office, all China can do is to issue stern statements to express its displeasure.
However, regarding Beijing’s recent threat to “take revenge” if Trump moves away from the “one China” policy, Paal said that the warning is real.
Asked if he expected Beijing to continue its effort to poach Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, such as the severing of diplomatic relations with Sao Tome and Principe on Dec. 20, Paal said the incident with the west African nation was probably driven by interests other than China’s desire to punish Taiwan.
Additional reporting by Aaron Tu