- - Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Taiwan’s navy plans to buy eight new submarines to face off against China’s much larger submarine fleet, according to reports from the island nation.

The Taiwanese legislature is being asked to approve the budget for the vessels within two months, according to the United Daily News in Taiwan. While China’s People’s Liberation Army has a balanced naval force with formidable numbers of both surface and submarine vessels, Taiwan’s navy lacks balance in its naval forces.

The PLA Navy has more than 60 submarines, including four active nuclear ballistic-missile submarines, six nuclear attack submarines, and scores of diesel-electric conventional attack submarines.

By contrast, Taiwan has two obsolete Hai Lung (Zwaardvis) class conventional submarines made in the Netherlands in service, two U.S.-made World War II-era Hai Shih [Tench] class submarines on reserve.

Taiwan remains heavily reliant on the United States to provide adequate defensive weapons.

However, the purchase of new submarines has been a problem for successive administrations and was excluded from various past arms-sales packages to Taiwan until 2001. That’s when newly elected President George W. Bush approved sales of eight conventional submarines to Taiwan to balance China’s growing submarine buildup.

But the United States stopped building conventional submarines decades ago in favor of nuclear-powered submarines.

Based on pressure or worries about upsetting China, submarine sales have been slow.

Despite Mr. Bush’s call for Germany and Spain to take up the task of selling diesel-electric subs to Taipei, both nations refused in the face of China’s objections.

The plan for new submarine purchases does not specify the country that will build or sell the vessels. However, three nations are in the running and none was named in the reports.


On Jan. 23, another PLA Navy 20,000-ton long-range type-071 (Yuzhao-class) amphibious transport dock (LPD) was launched at Shanghai Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard, marking another milestone in China’s amphibious warfare buildup.

Showcased at the same time were four of the PLA’s newest 150-ton air-cushioned landing craft (ACLCs), or amphibious hovercraft, that can carry three T-63A tanks or six type-90 armored vehicles. It was the fourth type-071 LPD launched by the PLA since 2006, with three deployed in the last two years.

Its advanced technology, size, speed, and carrying capacity are comparable to, or even better than, its counterpart, the San Antonio-class LPDs, in the U.S. Navy. Fully loaded, the type-071 LPD reportedly can carry four ACLCs, two troop-landing craft, 15 to 20 armored vehicles, 500 to 800 troops and two to four Z-8 Super Frelon helicopters. The type-071 Yuzhao-class LPDs are PLA Navy’s largest combat ships except its sole aircraft carrier, the Varyag. They can operate as flagships of PLA’s amphibious task forces, especially for naval confrontations in the tense South China Sea.


It’s no secret that China and Japan are on a path toward further diplomatic deterioration. A clear sign is the escalation of a carefully timed war of warnings between the two Asian countries on the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic normalization.

The latest exchange of warnings came Feb. 20, when Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura protested the Chinese government’s protest against a Japanese maritime survey ship, the Shoyo, conducting research inside the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone.

“We told China via diplomatic channels that we are conducting legitimate marine research within our EEZ and the activity cannot be halted. … We have issued protest to the Chinese government and refused unequivocally China’s demand to stop our ship’s research,” Mr. Fujimura told reporters.

At issue was the transit of the Japanese coast guard vessel Shoyo on Feb. 19 in an area near Senkaku islands that is claimed by both countries.

A Chinese maritime surveillance ship, the Haijian 66, rushed to the site and got as close as 1,800 feet from the Shoyo. The Chinese ship then radioed the Japanese ship, ordering it to stop operating because it said the Japanese ship was inside Chinese territorial waters.

• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]

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