Taiwan's domestic submarine development program uncertain: experts

2018/04/08 18:15:58 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) Although the U.S. administration has approved the marketing license required for American manufacturers to sell Taiwan the technology needed to build its own submarines, such a move could prove largely symbolic if the country lacks the ability to undertake system integration, parts assembly and testing, experts said Sunday.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Saturday that the U.S. Department of State's approval of the marketing license represents a major breakthrough for Taiwan's plan to develop its own submarines, while expressing gratitude to the U.S. government for helping Taiwan upgrade its self-defense capabilities.

The Presidential Office and the MND thanked the U.S. for its commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which requires the U.S. provide Taiwan with arms and services of a defensive nature.

Commenting on the news, National Chengchi University Institute of International Relations Director Arthur Ding (丁樹範) said that although the U.S. has continuously insisted upon a peaceful settlement of cross-strait differences based on the TRA, China's increasingly frequent military maneuvers near Taiwan has prompted Washington to take measures to ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense through either business sales or technology transfers.

However, U.S. technology transfers to Taiwan have in the past often been limited to those of a defensive nature, with front-end technologies excluded, Ding noted.

In contrast, the granting of the marketing license could be interpreted as U.S. support for Taiwan to build domestic submarines, Ding said.

However, under this business sales model, Taiwan has to manage and control downstream supply chain operations, such as system integration, Ding added.

If the government really wants to develop an indigenous defense industry, it needs clearer policies regarding budget allocation and investment, he said.

Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine editor-in-chief Kevin Cheng (鄭繼文) said the marketing license granted to Taiwan could indeed facilitate the building of domestic submarines but there could still be a long way to go because the U.S. might not supply all the technology or equipment needed for the submarine project, such as weapons, sonar and underwater communication systems.

Even if the U.S. wants to sell Taiwan those elements, the nation still lacks the experience and expertise needed to assemble and test such components, Cheng added.

(By Yiu Kai-hsiang and Evelyn Kao)

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