Taiwan on Tuesday began construction on a fleet of indigenous submarines under the latest move to out-gun the island to thwart its defense against the growing threat from Beijing.
Democratic Taiwan remains under constant threat of invasion by Communist China, which sees the self-governing island as part of its territory and has vowed to seize it one day by force if necessary.
Beijing has emphasized the military, economic and diplomatic pressure since President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016 due to his refusal to accept the stance that the island is part of “One China”.
“We are letting the world see Taiwan’s strong will to defend its sovereignty,” Tsai said in a ceremony marking the beginning of construction at a shipyard in southern Kaohsiung City.
The long-delayed project aims to deliver eight new submarines, with the first expected by 2025, according to officials.
The Taiwan Navy currently has four submarines, including two built in 1940 by the United States.
Taiwan has had to boost its own defense industry in recent decades as China pressures against selling major weapons platforms to other countries.
It has made significant progress on missiles and built its own fighter jets, but could be dwarfed by the People’s Liberation Army of China.
Washington initially approved a proposal in 2001 to supply eight conventional submarines, but the sale never took place.
In the same period China has built one of the world’s largest navies within its arsenal with nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers and the latest generation of hypersonic missiles.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken the most openly hostile stance towards Taiwan since Maotse Tung.
Chinese jets have crossed Taiwan’s air defense fields at an unprecedented rate this year, causing Taipei to repeatedly damage its own aging fleet.
But the strength of major arms manufacturing to sell to Taiwan may be lost.
Outgoing US President Donald Trump was far more willing to sign advanced weapon systems in Taiwan, approving sales of about $ 18 billion, including new-generation fighter jets.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)