Taiwan to build eight submarines to defend itself against China

The new ships will replace four subs, some dating back to World War Two, to face the mainland’s fleet of 76. Washington is supplying missiles and attack drones, but not submarines so far. "Outside" forces are thought to be helping Taiwan build its submarines.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – On 24 November, Taiwan will start building eight submarines, the first built on the island, the Presidential Office announced today.

President Tsai Ing-wen's spokesman Xavier Chang said the new subs will boost national defence against China’s rapid military build-up.

The first submarine is expected to enter service in late 2024. Currently, Taiwan has four submarines, two dating to World War Two and two to the 1980s.

Mainland China’s fleet can boast 76 submarines, some of them ultramodern. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, four Chinese submarines carry nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and six are nuclear-powered.

In the past month, the Trump administration has authorised the sale of weapons to Taiwan worth US$ 4.8 billion, including cruise and anti-ship missiles, and attack drones.

However, the US is not selling any submarine technology. According to many analysts, this is dictated by a desire to avoid tensions with China, given that such weapons systems are of strategic importance.

For some observers, Taipei does not have the necessary know-how to build submarines, and that it is receiving "outside" help.

Recently, Beijing has increased its pressure on Taiwan and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is accused of pursuing a pro-independence agenda.

For months, Chinese military aircraft have violated on an almost daily basis Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ). On Sunday, Chinese anti-submarine military aircraft flew into the ADIZ. This comes on top of violations of Taiwan’s domestic waters by the Chinese Navy.

Mainland China considers Taiwan a rebel province, and has never ruled out taking it by force.

The island has been de facto independent from China since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist forces fled the mainland after losing the civil war to the Communists.

Taiwan claims to be the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.