The Taiwanese Navy has had a big month for weapons procurement. On December 19, President Obama signed legislation allowing the United States to sell four Perry-class frigates to Taipei. And on December 23rd, Taiwan took delivery of the first of its powerful new catamaran corvettes. But the biggest development is that Taipei announced plans to develop attack submarines in order to firm up strategic countermeasures to China. USNI News reports:
Defense officials told the legislative body preparation work would begin this year starting with a modest $315,000 start into a $94.46 million four-year effort, beginning in earnest in 2016.The planned result would be around four SSKs to replace the island’s current boats — two Dutch-built, 1980s vintage 2,600-ton Hai-lang-class SSKs and two World War II era U.S. Guppy-class boats used for training.“At present the navy’s demand is submarines ranging from 1,200-3,000 tons,” Vice Adm. Hsiao Wei-min with the Republic of China Navy (RoCN) told the legislator on Monday.The new boats are a long awaited hedge against the expansion of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the looming threat of an amphibious assault from the mainland.
Taiwan is not the only player in the region upping its naval game. Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Australia are among the group of China’s neighbors who are working in one way or another toward greater naval power to hedge against a Chinese play for domination of the seas. This general trend is one of the main reasons why China mellowed somewhat in East Asia at the end of 2014. But Taiwan has a special place in the hearts of Chinese irredentists and territorialists, and a more muscular Taiwanese Navy will be especially unwelcome news in Beijing.