Taiwan on Tuesday officially began work on its first domestically produced submarine in an effort to beef up its coastal defences against an invasion from China.
Taiwan’s new programme will see the island build eight new diesel-powered attack submarines, which will substantially rejuvenate its fleet of two World War II-era vessels and two Dutch-made submarines built in the 1980s. The first submarine is expected to be completed by 2024.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island’s sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China.
At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a “historic milestone” for Taiwan’s defensive capabilities after overcoming “various challenges and doubts”.
“The construction demonstrates Taiwan’s strong will to the world to protect its sovereignty,” she told the event, which was also attended by the de facto U.S. ambassador in Taiwan, Brent Christensen.
“Submarines are important equipment for the development of Taiwan’s navy’s asymmetric warfare capabilities and to deter enemy ships from encircling Taiwan.”
The U.S. government in 2018 gave the green light for U.S. manufacturers to participate in the programme, a move widely seen as helping Taiwan secure major components, though it is unclear which U.S. companies are involved.
Chinese forces have ramped up their military activities near Taiwan, on occasion flying fighter jets across the unofficial buffer median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.