Monday, January 28, 2013

Taiwan needs new submarines

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that Taiwan badly needs a new generation of submarines to beef up its naval fleet.

"Our existing submarines are all very old and need renewal," Ma said while meeting with a United States congressional delegation headed by Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Ma noted that Royce paid a visit to a naval base in southern Taiwan Sunday and boarded the Guppy-class submarine "Sea Lion."

"We acquired that warship more than 40 years ago," the 62-year-old president said. "I happened to be serving my mandatory military service in the Navy at the time, so you can imagine how badly we need to renew our submarine fleet."

The congressional delegation headed by Royce visited the Tsoying naval base Sunday for a briefing and boarded two mine hunters that the U.S. delivered to Taiwan last year after overhauling them.

Military spokesman Luo Shou-he said naval authorities took advantage of Royce's visit to stress Taiwan's desire to acquire new submarines to strengthen its maritime security.

In April 2001, then-U.S. President George W. Bush announced the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package for the island since 1992.

Since then, however, there has been little progress in finalizing the deal.

Taiwan now has two U.S.-built Guppy-class submarines and two Dutch-built Zwaardvis-class submarines, which were acquired in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Ma told Royce that Taiwan-U.S. relations were at a low ebb when he first took office in May 2008. At that time, he said, relations across the Taiwan Strait had also almost come to a standstill.

"I worked proactively to improve the situation immediately after assuming office," Ma recalled.

In less than a month following his inauguration, Ma said, institutionalized cross-strait talks were resumed to pave the way for normal development of cross-strait engagements.

At the same time, Ma said, his administration has spared no effort to restore mutual trust with the United States through a "low-key, surprise-free" approach.

In October 2008, then-U.S. President George W. Bush approved an arms sales package worth more than US$6 billion, Ma said.

Today, he said, Taipei-Washington ties are in their best shape in more than three decades, and the Taiwan Strait is more stable and peaceful than it has ever been since 1949, when the Republic of China government moved to Taiwan.

The U.S. delegation arrived in Taipei Saturday for a three-day visit as part of a tour to East Asia.

(By Lee Shu-hua and Sofia Wu)

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