Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Ministry denies Russian sub claim

CNA , TAIPEI

Taiwanese and US officials have never discussed formally or informally the option of purchasing Russian-built Kilo-class submarines, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

The ministry was responding to a Washington Times report a day earlier that the Pentagon is considering procuring eight Kilo-class submarines from Russia for resale to Taiwan.

Under a plan percolating in the Pentagon, the daily said, Russia would sell the US eight Kilo-class submarines outfitted with Russian weapons but equipped with US electronics and propulsion systems for eventual resale to Taiwan.

A spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said the ministry has never heard of such a plan.

"The option of purchasing Kilo-class submarines has never been brought up in our formal or informal talks with Pentagon officials, " the spokesman said, adding that the position papers the ministry has presented to the Legislative Yuan and the media have also never mentioned such a proposal.

The ministry's position papers have only mentioned that the eight conventional submarines the US has agreed to sell to Taiwan are likely to be built by Spain, Germany or the US itself, the spokesman said.

He acknowledged that the US has been mulling over re-opening a production line to build new diesel subs for Taiwan based on its 1950s Barbell-class design after encountering difficulties obtaining conventional submarines on the international spot market.

Due to concern about upsetting Beijing, major countries that still build conventional submarines have been reluctant to accept any Taiwan-related orders.

The denfense ministry spokesman said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some arms brokers explored the possibility of selling Russian-made Kilo-class submarines and Su-27 fighter jets to Taiwan.

As the military has traditionally used US and European-made weapons systems, the spokesman said, the ministry has never included any Russian-made arms in its list of options because of possible difficulties in subsequent repair and maintenance work.

The submarines are high on the agenda of a legislative delegation which visited Washington this week, as are the plans to buy P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries.

The delegation, headed by Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), has met with Pentagon and other senior US officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, to discuss those arms procurement projects which the Taiwanese military plans to carry out in a 15-year period.

The delegation visited a Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile system site in Fort Hood, Texas, and a P-3C base in Hawaii.

It also visited a warship equipped with AEGIS battle-management facilities at Pearl Harbor.

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