Tsai Ing-wen attends a ceremony for the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Reuters
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island’s sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China.
Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China’s fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons.
At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a “historic milestone” for Taiwan’s defensive capabilities after overcoming “various challenges and doubts.”
“The construction demonstrates Taiwan’s strong will to the world to protect its sovereignty,” she told the event, which was also attended by the de facto US ambassador in Taiwan, Brent Christensen.
“submarines are important equipment for the development of Taiwan’s navy’s asymmetric warfare capabilities and to deter enemy ships from encircling Taiwan.”
The US government in 2018 gave the green light for US manufacturers to participate in the programme, a move widely seen as helping Taiwan secure major components, though it is unclear which US companies are involved.
State-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan said it would deliver the first of the eight planned submarines in 2025, giving a major boost to Tsai’s military modernisation and self-sufficiency plan.
Company chairman Cheng Wen-lung said they had faced major challenges, including difficulty procuring parts as well as “external forces hindering the development of this programme.”
Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States, but Tsai has made development of an advanced home-grown defence industry a priority.
In June, Tsai oversaw the first public test flight of a new locally designed and made advanced jet trainer.
Chinese forces have ramped up their military activities near Taiwan, on occasion flying fighter jets across the unofficial buffer median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pledge to strengthen the island’s defences and work more with regional partners on security in a major speech on Saturday, at a time when tensions with its giant neighbour China have risen dramatically.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity around the island in recent months, responding to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s most important international backer.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a low-key but critical maintenance base for fighter jet engines on Saturday, offering encouragement as the Chinese-claimed island’s armed forces strain in the face of repeated Chinese air force incursions.
Twitter was caught up in the heated political atmosphere leading up to the 2020 election, particularly when it banned former president Donald Trump following his incitement of the Jan.6 riot at the US Capitol.
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