The US has notified Taiwan that export permits for digital sonar systems needed in locally made submarines have been cleared and the systems’ exportation approved, Deputy Minister of National Defense (MND) Chang Che-ping (張哲平) said yesterday.
Sonar systems, diesel engines, torpedo and missile systems, and an integrated combat system have all been categorized as “red,” Chang said.
The ministry has divided required components into three categories: “red” for imported technologies that the country is unable to research and develop, or manufacture itself; “yellow” for parts that are difficult to obtain, but can be produced locally; and “green” for components that can be manufactured locally.
Photo: Taipei Times
The exportation of sonar systems would not require the US Congress to be notified, as they would be purchased directly from the manufacturer, Chang said.
Yesterday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told a meeting of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Central Standing Committee that the party’s legislative caucus should get behind the indigenous submarine program.
It is a significant platform for the government and the party’s support could prevent opposition lawmakers from freezing NT$5 billion (US$175.59 million) of the project’s budget, Tsai said.
The nation’s defense budget for fiscal year 2021 would total NT$366.3 billion after minor cuts approved in preliminary reviews, the ministry said yesterday, responding to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang’s (江啟臣) demand that it clarify the results of the reviews.
Lawmakers from across party lines on Friday last week pushed for a motion to freeze a portion of the budget for the submarine project, which had been earmarked to receive NT$10.51 billion for the construction of a prototype.
“Defense is very important to Taiwan... I hope lawmakers will attend to national security and defense needs when doing their job,” Tsai wrote on Facebook on Saturday last week.
Several budget cuts or freezes proposed by the opposition are pertinent to kernels needed for development of the nation’s defense equipment over the next five to 10 years, including locally made submarines and jet trainers, and F-16V jet upgrades, she wrote.
“Particularly, development plans for indigenous submarines and warships have been delayed for several decades,” she wrote, adding that big cuts might lead the global community to doubt Taiwan’s resolve to boost its self-defense capabilities.
“The current budget cuts are not that big,” Chiang said, citing Tsai’s remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee and asking Chang if Tsai was spreading disinformation.
After NT$496 million in cuts, the ministry settled on a budget of about NT$366.3 billion, out of which NT$5.1 billion in project funding was temporarily frozen, the ministry said later yesterday in a news release.
Due to a lack of consensus among lawmakers, the budget for the indigenous submarine project would be saved for cross-caucus negotiations, it added.
The ministry called for the public to support its budget proposal, citing the nation’s need for resolute defense capabilities.
Asked for comment, DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) — who was among those on Friday who backed the freeze motion — said that the budget cuts were moderate, while the frozen NT$5.1 billion was not about submarines.
Cross-caucus negotiations on the submarine budget could take place next month, while the DPP caucus would not back cutting or freezing the proposed budget, said Lo, who is also director of the DPP’s international affairs department.
Chang has said that the US gave its approval for the exportation of digital sonar systems to Taiwan, so there is no longer a legitimate reason for stalling the budget, Lo added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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