Taiwan unveiled a prototype of its first submarine assembled at home as it prepares to stave off a potential invasion by China, a feat only made possible with the secretive help of other countries.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry on Thursday staged the first sea trial of the diesel-electric vessel at its shipbuilder CSBC Corp.’s Kaohsiung dockyard. The submarine – named “Hai Kun” – is one of eight new vessels being developed under a multibillion-dollar program to bolster Taiwan’s naval defenses in the event of war with China.
China has sharply increased the number of military vessels it sends into the waters around Taiwan over the past year. Taiwan’s plan to update its aging fleet highlights rising concerns over China’s threat, including the potential for its People’s Liberation Army warships to encircle the island.
Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory and has pledged to bring the island under its control someday, by force if necessary. Taiwan’s government has rejected China’s claim, insisting the island is a de facto sovereign nation.
The submarine program draws on a coalition of expertise and parts around the world. In addition to sourcing technology from countries including the U.S. and the U.K., Taiwan also hired engineers, technicians and former naval officers from Australia, South Korea, India, Spain and Canada, according to a Reuters report — a milestone for diplomatically isolated Taiwan.
China vehemently opposes countries maintaining ties with Taiwan, including arms sales, prompting governments to keep much of their business with Taipei under the table.
Taiwan’s navy currently has only four submarines: two World War II-era vessels from the U.S. used for training and two bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s. Taipei launched its program to build its own submarines in 2017 after years of failed attempts to update its fleet.
“We had a lot of difficulties acquiring submarines from other countries,” said Lo Chih-cheng, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and member of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee. “No countries, including the U.S., were willing to sell submarines to us, so we decided to build our own.”
“And in the process of building the submarine, Taiwan received a lot of international support,” Lo said.
After sea trials, the “Hai Kun” is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy before the end of next year.
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