Taipei, Aug. 24 (CNA) A day after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that Taiwan is committed to building its own submarines, Taiwan's Defense Ministry insisted on Monday that it had still not given up on the idea of buying submarines from the United States.
Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Maj. Gen Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) said submarines are on the priority list of weapons Taiwan needs because they have a strong deterrent value and can help protect the safety of Taiwan's marine territory.
Taiwan is pursuing the expansion of its submarine fleet through two channels: continuing to seek arms sales from the United States and building submarines on its own, Luo said.
Taiwan has brought up its request for submarines at the annual Taiwan-U.S. defense industry conference each year and has never changed its thinking about purchasing arms from the U.S., the official said.
As for plans to have the submarines built locally, Luo said the idea has drawn the attention of America's industrial, academic and government sectors and triggered considerable discussion.
The MND will continue to promote the plan by integrating defense and diplomatic resources, and it hopes the U.S. and other countries will cooperate with Taiwan to provide it with submarines as early as possible, Luo said.
President Ma said Sunday that Taiwan needs diesel-electric submarines rather than nuclear-powered ones and has decided to build the type of craft it requires.
During a visit to a propeller factory in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, Ma said that nobody in the United States builds traditional diesel-electric subs any more.
The U.S. builds nuclear-powered submarines, Ma said, describing them as not suitable for the waters surrounding Taiwan.
"We have decided to build diesel-electric submarines on our own. We can source the technology at home but the weapons systems must be introduced from abroad," Ma said.
The U.S. agreed to sell subs to Taiwan in 2001, but the deal has been shelved for 14 years without any progress, Ma said. "We've come to the point where it is kind of getting hard to take."
Asked about future arms procurement bids, Luo said Taiwan will continue to pursue the acquisition of submarines and related technology from the U.S.
Although the U.S. does not built traditional diesel-electric subs any more, Luo said, it can sell Taiwan the vessels through other means and channels.
(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elizabeth Hsu) ENDITEM/ls