Beijing, Sep 28 (EFE).- Taiwan on Thursday unveiled its first domestically developed submarine, part of a program to modernize the island’s armed forces as tensions have peaked with China.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech in the southern city of Kaohsiung, where the submarine was displayed, that the vessel would be part of efforts to “protect Taiwan,” state news agency CNA reported.
In 2016, Tsai had launched a plan to build eight indigenous submarines to join the island’s existing fleet of four subs.
The president said that at the time, this had seemed like a “mission impossible, but now the submarine – designed and manufactured by the country’s own people – had become a reality.
Standing in front of the vessel, she proclaimed that no matter how many challenges stood in the way, Taiwan had to boost its policy of “defense autonomy.”
The island is expected to launch at least two indigenous submarines before 2027.
The submarine, built at a cost of 49.3 billion Taiwanese dollars ($1.53 billion), uses a Lockheed Martin combat system and is set to be equipped with United States-made Mark 48 torpedoes.
It would be tested at sea from the next month, and is set to be pressed into naval service by the end of 2024.
The launch comes at a time when tensions have peaked between Taipei and Beijing: on Sep. 18, Taiwan reported a record number of Chinese military incursions near its territory: with the presence of 103 aircrafts.
On Sep. 11, Taiwanese authorities had detected more than 20 Chinese vessels around the island.
China said its military drills were aimed at checking the “arrogance” of “separatist forces,” and warned that it would continue such exercises unless “provocations” on the part of Taiwan were stopped.
The Taiwanese defense department claimed that the latest Chinese drills had been unusual in their aggression, while vice-president William Lai said recently that Beijing had not changed its intentions of annexing Taiwan.
Lai has been leading the polls in the run-up to the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, set to be held on Jan. 23, 2024 and considered key for deciding the island’s policies towards China, as bilateral tensions have risen to unprecedented levels in recent times.
Taiwan has been governed autonomously since 1949, although China claims sovereignty over the island, considering it a rebel province for which it has not ruled out “reunification” by use of force. EFE