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Friday, December 10, 2010

Defense ministry denies plan to acquire submarines from Russia

Taiwan's defense ministry on Wednesday denied a news report that it is exploring the possibility of collaborating with Russia to build and acquire submarines to boost the island's defense capabilities.

"There is absolutely no such plan, " Vice Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang said while fielding questions at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported that a task force comprising officials of the Navy and the CSBC Corp. Taiwan visited Russia in October to discuss the possibility of collaborating with shipbuilders there to build submarines for Taiwan.

The Navy Command Headquarters also rebutted the report in a statement.

"The Navy has no plans to acquire submarines from sources other than the United States," the statement said.

The U.S. has been the biggest supplier of defense weapons to Taiwan.

The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush announced a robust arms sale package to Taiwan in 2001, including eight conventional submarines, but the submarine deal has yet to be substantiated.

The Navy Command Headquarters said that the submarine procurement deal is being screened by the U.S. Department of State and other related agencies and that it will make every effort to prompt the U.S. authorities to speed up the sale of the vessels to Taiwan.

Taiwan currently has four submarines but only two of them -- the Swordfish models purchased in 1980s from the Netherlands -- are in active service. The two other, which have been in service since World War II, are used mainly for training purposes.

Meanwhile, CSBC Corp Taiwan did not deny the reported trip to Russia but said "it had nothing to do with the Navy."

"No naval officers were part of the team that visited Russia last October for business purposes, " said Ying Tze-hsiang, a ranking CSBC official who led the delegation.

Ying said the CSBC delegation was seeking to tap into business opportunities in Russia on one hand and to try to strike technical cooperation deals with Russian builders on the other.

He explained that his corporation needs to expand its overseas market to cope with the increasing competition from shipbuilders in South Korea, Japan and China.

In addition, CSBC plans to acquire Russian expertise in building ice-breaking ships, as part of CSBC's efforts to meet increasing demand for transportation on the route between the North Pole and Shanghai, China, Ying said.

Besides, Russia, with its rich in marine resources, is in urgent need of financial support to build fishing vessels -- another reason for the leading Taiwan shipbuilder to consider partnerships with shipbuilders there, he said (source