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Navy to earmark NT$470 billion for shipbuilding projects

ROC Central News Agency

2016/06/20 18:10:01

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) The Navy is slated to allocate NT$470 billion (US$14.59 billion) for 12 shipbuilding projects during the 2018-2040 period, Navy Command Headquarters Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Mei Chia-shu (梅家樹) said Monday.

The Navy will first focus on building a new model of amphibious transport dock, high-speed mine-laying ships and the Tuo Jiang (沱江)- class corvette next year, said Mei, who gave the figure, described as a rough estimate, during a hearing at the legislative Foreign and National Defense Committee.

According to Mei, contract designs for the new amphibious transport dock will be finalized this year, to be followed by those for the high-speed mine-laying vessels and the Tuo Jiang-class ships -- Taiwan's first domestically developed stealth missile corvette. Spending on these related projects is estimated at NT$60 billion from now through 2025, he said.

Mei was answering questions from Kuomintang lawmaker Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), who expressed concern about which vessels will be given priority on the agenda of the Navy's mega-program to build locally developed warships.

Chiang's questions came as the Navy was set to make public 12 major warship-building projects at an investment conference in Taipei later Monday, as part of its efforts to demonstrate Taiwan's resolve to build its own ships at home and to lure greater investment ahead of the first-ever International Maritime and Defense Expo scheduled to open in Kaohsiung Sept.14-17.

Local media have reported that the Navy is hoping to build 6-8 Aegis-equipped destroyers to replace its aging Kidd-class fleet, which they have been calling the most eye-catching plan among the 12 projects.

The United States agreed to sell Taiwan eight diesel-electric submarines in 2001, but the deal has not been completed, as the U.S. has not built diesel-electric submarines since 1959.

Since 2001, developing locally built warships has been a hotly debated issue in Taiwan, in the face of increasing military enhancement efforts by other countries in the region.

It is difficult for Taiwan to acquire submarines from other countries due to its delicate relations with China, which sees Taiwan as one of its provinces.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who took office May 20, reaffirmed her goal June 4 of pushing for a self-reliant national defense force, when she boarded a domestically built warship off Yilan County in eastern Taiwan.

"In addition to enhancing naval combat capacity, it will also help the development of the shipbuilding and machinery sectors, as well as system integration," she emphasized. "The government will continue to promote the policy of building its own vessels."

Han Pi-hsiang (韓碧祥), chairman of the Taiwan Shipbuilding Industry Association, said Sunday that he welcomes the government policy, and estimated that it will help push the sector's production value to NT$70 billion per year.

(By Claudia Liu and Flor Wang)

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