Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Tang may abandon plan to buy expensive US subs


Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming answers questions from legislators during a budget review meeting of the Legislative Yuan's National Defense Committee yesterday.


The government may back out of a plan to buy eight submarines from the US, claiming they have been overpriced, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

Washington had estimated the eight submarines could cost up to US$11 billion, more than double the market price, a defense official told the paper.

If the differences over the cost could not be resolved, the navy might switch to buying used submarines instead, the official said.

In reply to a query at the legislature, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) reiterated the official line that procuring the eight submarines was a "deterrent" which the nation badly needed.

But Tang also sought to ease price concerns.

"The ministry would by no means pay exorbitant prices. All the weapons to be purchased must not exceed international prices and are required to meet our demands," he said.

US President George W. Bush approved the submarine sale in April 2001 as part of the most comprehensive arms sales to Taipei since 1992.

The deal has progressed slowly as the US has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years.

An opposition lawmaker said South Korea built three German-designed submarines for US$367 million each, India built three at US$323 million per submarine and Pakistan constructed three at US$317 million each.

"The prices quoted by the United States are outrageously high," the defense official said.

However, Taiwan would have to pay 20 percent more than the US tender if it insisted on building some of the submarines on its own, he added.

The Cabinet in September proposed to Washington that local technicians should be engaged in building the submarines to provide the state-run China Shipbuilding with the technical expertise.

The government's budget for purchasing the submarines is only NT$150 billion (US$4.41 billion).

Germany and Spain had reportedly declined to offer their designs. The Netherlands had also turned down the deal, lawmakers said.

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