TAIPEI, April 5 Taiwan plans to build eight
submarines to bolster its current fleet of four ageing
foreign-built vessels, a senior Taiwanese navy official said on
"In our indigenous submarine project, we hope to be able to
make eight submarines," Lee Tsung-hsiao, navy chief of staff,
told lawmakers, confirming publicly for the first time the
number of vessels being planned.
Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of state-controlled shipbuilder CSBC
Corp Taiwan, which has been contracted to build the
submarines, also told lawmakers that the initial design will be
fully completed by early 2018.
Military and defence industry officials in Taiwan have said
the first submarine is expected to go into operation within 10
Lee's comments come ahead of the first meeting between
leaders of the United States and China this week that Taipei has
fretted could harm its interest.
China regards democratic Taiwan part of its territory and
has never renounced the use of force to take control of what it
sees as a wayward province.
The United States is obligated by U.S. law to help Taiwan
defend itself, but its arms sales to Taiwan angers Beijing and
has slowed down the pace of sales, defence experts said.
Taiwan and the United States, its sole arms supplier, are
currently engaged in fresh arms sales talks.
Last month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed that her
administration would see through the indigenous submarine
programme as she toured one of the navy's four aging submarines,
purchased from the United States and Netherlands at least 30
Taiwan has never built a submarine before and will need to
rely on foreign technology support to make an advanced vessel,
defence experts have said.
Taiwan's submarine project is in the middle of a four-year
design contract phase budgeted at T$3 billion ($98.69
million)that began in 2016.
($1 = 30.3980 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Michael Perry)