Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet forms task force to consider making subs

DEFENSE CONCERNS The new group will help state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp secure orders to produce conventional submarines

CNA , TAIPEI

The Cabinet has formed a supra-ministerial task force to help state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) secure orders to build conventional submarines for the navy, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official said yesterday.

"The task force will be co-chaired by two ministers-without-portfolio, Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄) and Hu Shan-jen (胡勝正), who happen to take charge of defense and economic affairs, respectively," said MND spokesman Major General Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生).

The decision to form the supra-ministerial team was reached during a meeting chaired by Vice Premier Lin Hsin-i (林信義) last Friday, Huang said, adding that the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is expected to take care of the day-to-day running of the task force.

During the meeting, Huang said, CSBC executives gave a detailed report on the company's submarine R&D promotional programs.

Huang said both the Cabinet and the military recognize the CSBC's efforts to upgrade its shipbuilding capabilities in preparation for vying for orders to build diesel-powered submarines for the navy.

The new task force consists of officials from the MND, the MOEA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Joint Ship Design Center. Huang said the task force is scheduled to meet again in the near future to discuss concrete steps to help the CSBC secure submarine orders in line with the government's policy of promoting domestic construction of warships.

The US has agreed to sell eight diesel-powered submarines to the navy. Many lawmakers have been pushing the government to lobby US authorities to commission the CSBC to build some of the submarines. The formation of the new task force is the Cabinet's response to the lawmakers' appeal.

The CSBC itself has also shown a keen interest in building conventional submarines for the navy. It has launched R&D programs with a view to securing relevant orders.

In addition to submarines, Huang said, the navy has also decided to release orders for other large warships and a new generation of missile speedboats as well as repair and maintenance orders to the CSBC and other domestic shipbuilding firms to realize the goal of defense "self-sufficiency."

In related developments, a local newspaper said a team of naval officers have left for the US to discuss a price discount for the four second-hand Kidd-class destroyers the George W. Bush administration has agreed to sell to Taiwan.

According to the paper, the Legislative Yuan has demanded a 15 percent price cut for the navy's planned procurement of the four Kidd-class destroyers while approving the purchase budget. If successful, it said, the "bargaining trip" could save Taiwan up to NT$4.3 billion.

The MND declined to comment on the report.

The ministry has proposed to acquire the four second-hand warships for US$875 million, the paper said.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress last November of the possible sale of the four 9,600-tonne guided-missile destroyers. Also included in the sale would be 248 SM-2 Block IIIA Standard missiles, 32 RGM-84L Block II Harpoon missiles, shipyard and port support services and post-transfer activities, including personnel training as well as spare parts.

The SM-2 surface-to-air missiles have a range of 144km and vastly outperform Standard I missiles currently installed on Taiwan's Perry-class frigates. The four destroyers would replace the vessels currently in use. The first two Kidd-class destroyers could enter Taiwan service by 2005 at the earliest.

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