|A japanese sub takes part in an exercise|
It has been more than a decade since U.S. President George W. Bush announced that Washington was willing to help Taiwan acquire eight diesel-electric submarines at a cost of about US$12 billion. As the U.S. stopped making submarines of that type a many years ago, the program has stalled, igniting speculation that Taiwan could instead attempt to build them on its own. And if recent reports are true, there could be a role for Japan.
The official position of the island’s Ministry of National Defense is that it remains committed to procuring submarines from the U.S. However, it is now almost certain that if Taiwan is ever to succeed in modernizing its submarine fleet — which at present consists of two World War II-era Guppy-class boats used for training and two combat-capable Hai Lung-class boats obtained from the Netherlands in the 1980s — it will have to find alternatives to a direct sale from the U.S.
Despite the contradiction with the official line, Taiwanese navy officials have privately told this writer more than once that teams from the defense ministry have visited European countries to evaluate the possibility of foreign acquisitions or cooperation on a domestic program. In late 2011, a U.S. defense expert with a long history of involvement with the submarine program said that Taiwan had “given up” on obtaining U.S. submarines and was now committed to a domestic program.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.