TAIPEI — A senior Taiwanese official has renewed a call for the United States to sell the island submarines and advanced fighters to bolster defenses against China, local media reported Tuesday.
The call came despite a marked improvement in relations since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008. Ma was re-elected in January 2012.
Despite warming ties, Beijing still refuses to rule out the use of force to reunify with Taiwan and has been strengthening its own forces.
“The Chinese mainland’s military might keeps growing at a fast pace in the past few years, posing a grave threat to Taiwan,” deputy defense minister Yen Teh-fa told reporters on the sidelines of the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Annapolis, Md., from Sept. 29-Oct 1.
The conference, the 12th since 2002, discussed Taiwan’s Quadrennial Defense Review and examined the island’s defense needs against an increasingly assertive Chinese military, Taiwan’s state Central News Agency reported.
Regarding hoped-for weapons acquisitions from the United States, the island’s leading arms supplier, Yen said Taiwan now gives priority to submarines.
In April 2001 then-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 on the order because the United States has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years.
Germany and Spain have reportedly declined to offer their own designs for fear of offending China.
The Taiwanese navy currently operates a fleet of four submarines, but only two of them could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s.
Taiwan is also looking for fighter aircraft more advanced than the current F-16s, Yen said.