A former US Department of Defense official says that “with the right encouragement” Japan might be persuaded to help Taiwan build diesel-electric submarines.
“Japan is both capable and possibly willing,” Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower director Seth Cropsey said.
Writing on the RealClearDefense Web site, Cropsey — a former deputy undersecretary of the US Navy — said: “A redoubled Taiwanese effort to engage Japan’s assistance in building the indigenous submarine is worth the effort.”
He said that faced with the possibility of a blockade or amphibious attack, and unaided by its friends in a decades-long effort to build a defensive submarine force, Taiwan is to upgrade its naval capabilities by building its own submarines.
Cropsey said that now is the time to ask Japan for help because Tokyo is “understandably and increasingly concerned and irritated by China’s aggressive naval activity that frequently encroaches on Japanese territory.”
A strong naval presence in the South China Sea that is friendly to Japan and the US is worth incurring China’s displeasure, Cropsey wrote.
“By providing the framework for a bolstered Republic of China Navy [ROCN], Japan would improve its security without having to dedicate more resources to its own defensive structure,” he added.
As Taiwan remains a vital component of US naval strategy, Japan’s genuine interest in adding to Taiwan’s defensive ability complements Washington’s obligation to protect both Taiwan and Japan, he said.
“We are living in a time when the US is the strongest global power as well as the world’s pre-eminent seapower — helping Taiwan acquire modern capable submarines materially adds to both our security and that of our allies and partners in East Asia,” he said.
Cropsey said that many Taiwanese officials have spoken of their intent to secure international assistance before developing an indigenous defense submarine.
He said that the US has not constructed a diesel submarine since the late 1950s, but could provide design engineers.
“The US could work with Japanese shipbuilders, who make excellent submarines,” he said. “The US could also relax export controls on items needed to build the submarines.”
“Several US defense contractors have solid working relationships with Taiwan,” he said.
“Working with a US company to design an ROCN submarine could set Taiwan on an accelerated path towards development while giving Taiwan control over production and manufacturing,” he added.
One option is to use the blueprints of an existing model and customize it to fit Taiwan’s requirements, he said.
“Transnational industrial cooperation with Japan could help strengthen security partnerships between defense ministries that face the same threat,” he added.
Cropsey said that a dozen submarines connected with advanced sensors and weapons could contest the Chinese navy for control of the waters surrounding Taiwan.