- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

JERUSALEM Israel has offered technological help in building American submarines for Taiwan, provided it can do so without angering China, a leading Israeli newspaper reported yesterday.

According to a report in the newspaper Ha'aretz, Israel has conditionally offered to provide key planning input in the construction of Dolphin-class submarines in an American shipyard for Taiwan.

The Bush administration agreed to sell Taiwan eight of the submarines.

Israel's condition is that its involvement in the submarine deal between the United States and Taiwan not adversely affect its own relations with China.

These were rocked two years ago when Israel canceled the sale to China of its Phalcon airborne reconnaissance system under American pressure.

For Israel, the advantage of involvement in the submarine project is that it would indirectly permit it to expand its own submarine fleet, seen as an increasingly vital strategic arm intended to offset the threat of nuclear weapons that Iran and other Muslim countries are seeking to acquire.

Israel currently has three Dolphin-class subs that reportedly are able to fire nuclear-tipped missiles. Since Israel's small size makes it particularly vulnerable to missile attack, the submarines, with their second-strike capacity, are regarded as a prime deterrent.

Several European countries, reluctant to antagonize China, have refused Taiwan's submarine-purchase request. These countries include Germany, where the Dolphins were originally designed and built.

But with the Bush administration having agreed to the request, two American firms, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are competing for the contract.

However, the United States for the past 50 years has produced submarines powered by nuclear reactors, whereas Taiwan is seeking conventional subs.

The Dolphin is a conventional sub, but the version built in Germany for Israel contains major, Israeli-initiated, modifications.

Israel has records of manufacturing plans for the vessels. Apart from silos for ballistic missiles, the submarine has exit hatches for commandos.

According to Ha'aretz, Israel has offered Northrup its knowhow in the construction of the Dolphins because Israel is interested in seeing a Dolphin assembly line established in the United States.

Such vessels could then be acquired by Israel with the defense aid it receives annually from the United States.

Because of concern over how Beijing might react, Israel and Northrop officials agreed to omit any reference to Israel in the sales pitch made to Taiwan and to refer to the vessels as "Dolphin-design submarines developed in a German dockyard."

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