By Taijing Wu
Taipei, Nov 24 (efe-epa).- Taiwan began Tuesday the construction of eight self-made submarines with which President Tsai Ing-wen seeks to “defend the sovereignty of the island” amid growing tensions with China.
At a ceremony held for this purpose in the southern city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said her government is “exceeding milestones” in “establishing independent defense capabilities” and “achieving goals that previous administrations failed to achieve.”
“This demonstrates the strong will of Taiwan to protect its sovereignty. Challenges and doubts will not defeat us. Starting today, the construction of ‘Made in Taiwan’ submarines begins,” Tsai said accompanied by representatives of the Taiwanese navy, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan – the de facto United States embassy in Taiwan – Bent Christensen, and of foreign contractors.
The project to build them began in December 2016, shortly after Tsai took office as president, to join four that Taiwan now has: two Hai-Shihs from the 1940s and two Chien-Lungs from the late 1940s. 1980.
The first of the new submarines, a prototype, will be ready in 2025, according to the Taiwanese state company CSBC.
“The submarines are key to dissuading enemy ships from encircling Taiwan,” said Tsai, who aims for the island to develop a defense industry less dependent on the US.
However, the new vessels will be equipped with MK-48 Mod6 AT HWT torpedoes, according to local press. In May of this year, the US State Department approved the sale to Taiwan of 18 of these torpedoes worth $180 million.
The maximum speed of the MK-48 Mod6 AT HWTs is approximately 101 kmph, 60 percent faster and with a 25 percent wider range than the German-made SUT torpedoes that the Taiwanese Navy now uses in its two submarines.
For his part, Presidential Spokesman Xavier Chang said the new submarines have the objective of “reinforcing the country’s defenses” in the face of the rapid military modernization of China, which considers Taiwan a rebel island.
China has reiterated on countless occasions that “the question of Taiwan is of the highest level of sensitivity,” since the end of the civil war in 1949, Beijing considers the island has to be reunified with the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, Taiwan is considered sovereign territory with its own government and political system under the name of the Republic of China.
During his tenure, US President Donald Trump has prioritized strengthening relations with Taiwan, including arms sales, despite the fact that in 1979 Washington broke off relations with Taipei, which became informal, after recognizing the People’s Republic of China.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have risen recently following recent official visits by US officials to the island and the sales of several batches of weapons this year, including HIMARS missile launcher systems, SLAM-ER missiles, Harpoon maritime defense systems and armed MQ-9 Reaper drones. EFE-EPA