TAIPEI — Taiwan's navy will ask parliament to fund the purchase of up to eight new submarines within the next two months, reviving an acquisition that has been in limbo for over a decade, local media said Feb. 20.
The navy may not necessarily buy U.S. technology and is looking at three different countries as potential suppliers, the United Daily News reported.
In April 2001, then-U.S. President George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package to the island since 1992.
Since then, however, there has been little progress as the U.S. has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years, and Germany and Spain had reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.
But the United Daily News said new options have emerged lately as three countries have offered either to help Taiwan build submarines or sell the island several German-built submarines. It did not name the three countries.
"Purchasing submarines from the United States has been given top priority in the past years and will remain so in the future," the Taiwan navy said in a response to the report. "But if there are any other sources to provide submarines, they are also welcome."
Taiwan's navy operates a fleet of four submarines, but only two of them, both Dutch-built, could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the U.S. in the 1940s.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 promising to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island.
But Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though Taiwan has governed itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.
China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced weapons.