Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Defense minister pushes for subs to be built here

OBSTACLE COURSE Tang Yao-ming said it would be a good idea for the US subs to be made in Taiwan, but many obstacles must be first be overcome


Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) told visiting American Institute in Taiwan Chairwoman Therese Shaheen yesterday that he hoped the US would make good on its promise to sell Taipei eight diesel-powered submarines and that Taiwan would be able to participate in the building of some of them.

The US agreed to sell Taiwan the submarines in an April 2001 arms deal, the largest weapons sale to Taiwan from the US in a decade.

Observers have said that delivering on the promised subs could be difficult, if not impossible, given that the US no longer builds diesel submarines.

Tang made the remarks when he visited the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus in the Legislative Yuan to solicit support for next year's defense budget.

TSU Legislator Ho Min-hao (何敏豪) said the party has long advocated that the Ministry of Defense should purchase subs under the understanding that Taiwan should be able to contribute to the construction of the subs.

Ho was referring to the concept of the US allowing Taiwan's state-owned China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) to help with the construction of the first of the submarines and then turn over the entire project to CSBC to finish via transfer of technology.

Ho said that Tang agreed with the policy of Taiwan building the subs and said as much to Shaheen, the top US liaison official with Taiwan, who arrived in Taipei on Monday for a weeklong fact-finding trip.

Tang did not comment on Shaheen's response but said that many obstacles must be overcome for Taiwan to participate in the submarine-building project, according to Ho.

Ho also said that Tang, while explaining the defense budget, said that the defense ministry has listed C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems as its top purchase priority next year, and will include in the 2005 budget funds for the purchase of six Patriot missile batteries to upgrade the combat readiness of the nation.

During the same meeting with the TSU legislators, Tang also addressed concerns over the recent failure of the navy's torpedo test firings.

One of two torpedoes fired at a stationary, de-commissioned destroyer failed to hit its target Tuesday. Another similar test failed early last month.

Tang stressed that the navy officials in charge of the exercise are all well trained and that the problem lies with the hardware -- the torpedoes -- and not with the men who fired them.

He pointed out that torpedoes were purchased some 10 or 20 years ago, and that he had now instructed his subordinates to review the torpedo inventory regularly and test fire the torpedoes occasionally.

Tang also instructed that the purchase contracts should be reviewed to see if there is an after-sale guarantee. If it so, the ministry will seek redress, he said.

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