The US has said it will help Taiwan build domestic diesel-electric submarines, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) said on Monday at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Yen was quizzed on the subject days after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told US policymakers in a video conference on Wednesday last week that Taiwan needs diesel-electric submarines to strengthen its defensive capabilities.
“There seems to be a consensus in Taiwan that we should seek foreign technology to help us build [the submarines] ourselves,” Ma said at a forum organized by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Asked at the committee hearing whether a policy to build indigenous submarines had been finalized, Yen said the government has launched a plan to construct them locally so after trying and failing to buy US submarines for 13 years.
On Monday, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a statement that it has begun preparations to build submarines in Taiwan and that the project’s chance of succeeding will grow if the US helps manage it, facilitates technology transfers, or engages in coproduction.
The ministry said Washington agreed to sell the nation submarines in 2001, but no progress has been made on the deal since then.
Under pressure from lawmakers across party lines and the public, the ministry has decided to begin the pre-production phase of the project to show its resolve to defend Taiwan, the statement said.
The ministry said it has discussed the matter with the US, and Washington has expressed its understanding of Taiwan’s determination to build its own submarines.
The ministry also plans to seek the support of US policymakers to further its plans through bilateral military exchanges, according to the statement.
Also at the hearing, Yen confirmed that the nation has decided to buy two of the four frigates that it may be offered by the US, after factoring in budget constraints and other issues.
The US House of Representatives on April 7 authorized the sale of four Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates to Taiwan, while officially reaffirming its support for the Taiwan Relations Act days before the 35th anniversary of the landmark document.