The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday released the party’s “blue paper” on defense policy, urging the government to speed up the development of submarines and increase its military spending to 3 percent of the country’s GDP in light of China’s growing military strength.
“I propose a concept of ‘two-stage indigenous production of submarines,’ namely, conserving the integrity of the navy’s current submarine forces on one hand, while activating a long-term development cycle of ship design and R&D [research and development], critical equipment acquisition, testing and operation, and upgrading,” DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at a press conference held to unveil the paper, titled China’s Military Threats Against Taiwan in 2025.
“We must maintain a long-term commitment to indigenous submarine R&D, increase the ratio of indigenous production, accumulate the quality of our shipbuilding workforces and technology, and strengthen the combat capabilities of naval denial,” he said.
Su said the government should also tackle insufficient defense budget allocations as soon as possible, so it can attract more talent to contribute R&D potential in Taiwan’s science and technology.
On the issue of China’s cyberthreat, Taiwan must strengthen its current national information security mechanism, endorse the legislations concerning critical infrastructure protection, support the information security industry and cultivate cybersecurity talent, Su said.
The status of the Information and Electronic Warfare Command in the organization chart of the Ministry of National Defense should be bolstered, he added.
As for Taiwan’s air capabilities, Su said that it must transform toward developing diversified platforms. Apart from continuing to support the upgrade of the current IDF and F-16 fleets and urgently seeking to procure advanced fighters from overseas, the indigenous production of advanced long-range unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) should be the priority, he said.
“The resource competition between defense expenditure and economic development must be changed conceptually and practically into a mutually reciprocal relationship. No economy, no defense: the economy and defense must be mutually reinforcing,” Su added.
York Chen (陳文政), convener of the DPP’s defense policy advisory committee, said that if Taiwan initiated a plan in 2016 to build eight indigenous submarines within 25 years, the first self-built submarine could be completed by 2022.
Eight submarines would cost NT$400 billion (US$13.2 billion), or NT$16 billion per year on average, he said.
He predicted that the project would require higher investment in the first few years, at NT$23 billion per year.
With military spending accounting for just 2.22 percent of GDP in 2012, an additional NT$23 billion would raise the share to 2.38 percent of GDP, which would remain far behind the 3 percent target, he said.
In response, military spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) yesterday said the navy recognizes that a submarine force has a significant role and position in joint sea defense warfare capabilities. The navy continues to seek to procure submarines from the US, while developing its own submarines, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) yesterday questioned the DPP’s commitment to build locally developed submarines.
Lin said the previous DPP administration in March 2005 was opposed to a proposal, which he advocated as early as 2002, that six of the eight diesel-powered submarines that Taiwan had planned to acquire from the US be built in Taiwan using technology transfer.
The then-DPP led by Su instructed its caucus to pass a legislative resolution against indigenous submarine development due to concerns over limited budget, Lin said.
The nation’s first locally-built submarine could have been launched in 2011 had the previous DPP administration not been opposed to the project in 2005, Lin said, adding that the DPP and Su owe the public an apology.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and CNA