Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blues try to sink sub proposal

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A war of words erupted last week about the appropriateness of expanding the nation's submarine force, with some opponents of a proposed arms procurement deal saying subs are offensive weapons, and are therefore inappropriate for Taiwan's defense.

The decision to delay the purchase of PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries until next year and to include P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in the regular defense budget has left the eight diesel-electric submarines -- worth NT$299 billion (US$9 billion) -- the only item included in a special arms budget.

The most recent battle is a result of a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator's comments opposing the procurement of the submarines from the US.

Last week, KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) published an opinion piece in a Chinese-language newspaper titled "New thinking on Taiwan's arms procurement." In the piece, he urged the country to devote itself to a "defensive" military, rather than the "offensive" military he said the Chen administration was trying to build. He said the change was necessary due to limited funds in recent years.

"Taiwan should boost its defensive capabilities and aim to survive a `first strike' during a Chinese military attack. It is not necessary to spend huge amounts of money on offensive submarines," Su added.

KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) last week said that American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal had confirmed that the items and price of the arms procurement budget are adjustable, depending on Taiwan's needs.

Chiang then proposed that Taiwan should not buy the submarines currently included in the arms package, saying their "attack" capabilities are unnecessary and inappropriate for the nation's defense-focused military policy.

The KMT legislators' comments regarding submarines immediately sparked a debate between legislators and military experts.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) then launched a vigorous defense of the submarine purchase.

DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) published an article in a Chinese language newspaper's opinion page titled "Submarines: Critical for Taiwan's defense," saying that "due to China's weak anti-submarine warfare capabilities, a Taiwanese submarine force would be able to survive a first strike from China's ballistic missiles and cruise missiles attack."

Advanced submarines have high survival rates in wartime because of their stealthiness underwater, Lee added.

From a tactical point of view, Lee said, a Taiwanese submarine force would be able to blockade and counter-blockade China's ports and sea lanes. Strategically, the submarines "offensive" capabilities would deter China from waging a war against Taiwan because of the huge cost.

Lee calculated, additionally, that because of China's sparse anti-submarine warfare capabilities, Beijing would have to spend around eight times the amount spent on Taiwan's submarine force to build up adequate capabilities, including procuring anti-submarine aircraft, minesweepers, mine-sweeping helicopters, anti-submarine missiles and destroyers. Therefore, the move would distract China from concentrating on its offensive capabilities.

DPP Legislator Shen Fa-hui (沈發惠), a member of the National Defense Committee, last week also published an opinion article in response to Su's comments. He said it was ridiculous for Su and the pan-blue parties to think that Taiwan should boost its anti-missile capabilities, and yet block the procurement of the Patriot batteries.

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