The Ministry of National Defense yesterday denied a news report that it was exploring the possibility of collaborating with Russia to build and acquire submarines to boost its defense capabilities.
“There is absolutely no such plan,” Vice Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) told the legislature’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported that a task force comprising officials from the Republic of China Navy and CSBC Corp Taiwan had visited Russia in October to discuss the possibility of collaborating with shipbuilders there to build submarines for Taiwan.
The Navy Command Headquarters also rebutted the report in a statement.
“The navy has no plans to acquire submarines from sources other than the United States,” the statement said.
The US has long been the biggest supplier of arms to Taiwan.
The administration of former US president George W. Bush announced a robust arms sales package to Taiwan in 2001, including eight conventional submarines, but the submarine deal has yet to be finalized.
The Navy Command Headquarters said the submarine procurement deal was being screened by the US Department of State and other related agencies and that it would make every effort to prompt the US authorities to speed up the sale of the vessels to Taiwan or provide feasibility studies.
Taiwan has four submarines, but only two — the Swordfish models purchased in 1980s from the Netherlands — are in active service. The two others, which have been in service since World War II, are used mainly for training.
CSBC Corp Taiwan did not deny making the reported trip to Russia, but said: “It had nothing to do with the navy.”
“No naval officers were part of the team that visited Russia last October for business purposes,” a senior CSBC official who led the delegation said.
The CSBC delegation was seeking to tap into business opportunities in Russia and to try to make technical cooperation deals with Russian builders, the official said, adding that the firm needed to expand its overseas market to cope with the increasing competition from shipbuilders in South Korea, Japan and China.
In addition, CSBC plans to acquire Russian expertise in building ice-breaking ships, as part of CSBC’s efforts to meet increasing demand for transportation on the route between the North Pole and Shanghai, the official said.
Russia, with its rich marine resources, is also in urgent need of financial support to build fishing vessels — another reason for the leading Taiwan shipbuilder to consider partnerships with shipbuilders there, he said.