Taiwan breaks ground for first submarine shipyard

TAIPEI • President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday hosted a ground-breaking ceremony for Taiwan's first shipyard for self-built submarines, stressing that she is determined to strengthen the island's defence autonomy.

Ms Tsai announced the launch of a programme in 2017 for the development of submarines made in Taiwan, but the move has faced criticism from rival China as well as opposition parties, which say it is too expensive.

"We've faced harsh criticism. Today, however, we've proved that Taiwan can actually make it," Ms Tsai said at the ceremony, held at the shipyard site in Kaohsiung.

Construction of the shipyard is due to be completed by late next year. Taiwan plans to produce eight diesel submarines, and to have its first self-built submarine in operation by 2024.

The programme is being jointly conducted by the navy, the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology and a shipbuilding company, CSBC Corporation Taiwan.

According to Ms Tsai, Taiwan operates four submarines: two 70-year-old models from the US and two 30-year-old models from the Netherlands. Pressure from China has prevented Taiwan from buying more from abroad.

Ms Tsai has made reviving Taiwan's domestic arms industry a priority for her administration.

Construction of the shipyard is due to be completed by late next year. Taiwan plans to produce eight diesel submarines, and to have its first self-built submarine in operation by 2024.

On Monday, Ms Tsai received a defence industry delegation from the US-Taiwan Business Council, expressing her hope that the council will help connect the island's defence manufacturers with the global market.

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwan breaks ground for first submarine shipyard'. Print Edition | Subscribe