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MND pushes for indigenous and US-made subs

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan has been pushing the United States to sell diesel-powered submarines and studying the feasibility in building its own ones simultaneously, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) said yesterday.

Acquiring submarines is an important step for the nation's armed forces in shifting focus to asymmetrical warfare strategies in response to China's growing military prowess, Yen told lawmakers at the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

The minister said Taiwan has been pushing the U.S. to sell it diesel-powered submarines for some time but Washington has yet to approve the deal.

The military is also weighing other options, including studying the feasibility of building diesel-electric submarines itself, he added.

But there are major challenges before Taiwan can start to build locally developed submarines, the minister said.

Taiwan has to acquire submarine-building blueprints, key equipment and weapons systems if it wants to build submarines, he added.

Yen made the comments amid lawmakers' questions on the nation's capability in building its own submarines.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced earlier this week a defense blue paper in which it proposed that Taiwan develop indigenously produced weapons, including submarines.

The DPP plans to adopt an innovative approach to counter the impact of the rapid growth of mainland China's military strength, according to the paper.

Besides purchasing weapons from other countries, the DPP plans to develop indigenously produced weapons, including submarines, starting in 2016.

Asked to comment, Yen said yesterday the DPP's proposal is not a new one and the ruling administration began studying the possibility of building its own submarines “a few years ago.”

Aside from the acquisition of new submarines, the military also allocated funds to renovate its two 70-year-old U.S. Guppy-class submarines built during World War II, Yen said.

Currently four submarines are in active service in Taiwan: two U.S. Guppy-class submarines and two Dutch-built submarines from the 1980s.

Taiwan has been asking the U.S. to sell diesel-powered submarines for more than a decade in the hope of replacing the decades-old subs.

In 2001, the administration of former U.S. President George Bush offered to provide eight diesel-electric submarines. But so far, no significant process on the sale has been made.

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