Taiwan has begun building a fleet of state-of-the-art submarines as it looks to further bolster its defensive capabilities, a move analysts say could complicate any potential Chinese military plans to invade the island or install a naval blockade.
Construction on the first of eight new subs began last month at a facility in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, with the first expected to begin sea trials in 2025. At a ceremony marking the beginning of the program, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called it a “historic milestone” which “demonstrates Taiwan’s strong will to the world.”
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that Beijing will never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary. But Tsai has been defiant, saying Taiwan is at the forefront of “defending democracy from authoritarian aggression” in Asia.
For several months, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been increasing military pressure on the island, sending warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and stepping up military exercises on nearby islands, moves widely interpreted as a threat to Taipei.
But any PLA invasion flotilla would have to cross the Taiwan Strait, the relatively narrow body of water separating Taiwan from the mainland.
And that’s where the analysts say Taiwan’s planned submarines — which would replace its fleet of four subs that date back as far as World War II — could make a big difference.