DEFENSE MINISTER DEFENDS URGENT NEED TO PURCHASE SUBMARINES
ROC News Agency
Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Minister of National Defense Lee Jye defended Thursday a clear need to acquire submarines to safeguard Taiwan, warning that China's navy is building a force with a long range war capability that will pose a serious threat to Taiwan by 2020.
Lee made the remarks while giving a keynote report on a proposal by his ministry on its submarine purchase, part of a major procurement plan worth billions of dollars of military equipment from the United States that also includes six PAC III Patriot anti-missile batteries and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft.
Saying that it is urgent and vital to purchase submarines to protect the country, Lee said that by 2020, the Chinese navy will be capable of reaching regions including the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.
At that time, it will generate a huge threat to Taiwan's economy and security, as the country totally relies on shipping to transport military and daily consumption materials through sea lanes in these regions, he warned, adding that with more than 80 submarines, the Chinese navy will be able to enforce a blockade against Taiwan.
To effectively deter such a possible attack, Taiwan has to own at least 10 submarines before 2020, which is the reason behind the ministry's plan to buy advanced diesel-electric subs equipped with sophisticated missiles from the United States that would help the Taiwan navy upgrade its surveillance abilities five-fold and tremendously sharpen its attack capabilities, he said.
He went on to say that his ministry has slashed its budget for eight subs to NT$297 billion (US$9.42 billion) from the previous level of NT$412 billion after taking into account a stronger new Taiwan dollar and a business strategy ruling out constructing the ships at home due to a lack of expertise.
In the face of discontent from various lawmakers of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) over what they describe "a high quotation" from the United States, the minister claimed that the high cost is due to the need for the United States to find a builder in a third country or reopen its own production lines to build the subs, a cost that has to be borne by Taiwan.
Speaking on the same occasion, ministry officials said Taiwan will be entitled to take over the blueprint and manufacturing facilities for the subs after the eight vessels have been built. They added that the ministry will seek cooperation opportunities from the United States in follow-up maintenance and repairs and promised to continue negotiations on a cheaper price offer.
The ministry's budget allocation for the eight submarines is the most disputed section of the arms procurement plan, which has triggered a partisan strife at the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan.
Lawmakers of the opposition "pan blue alliance" of the KMT, the People First Party and the New Party are strongly opposed to the arms procurement deal, calling it no more than pork barrel politics that will leave Taiwan's younger generations strapped with huge debt.
(By Flor Wang)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|