Taiwan, a self-governing island in East Asia, has recently unveiled its first domestically-made submarine, named the Haikun, in a move to bolster its defenses against the ever-present threat of a possible Chinese attack. President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the launch ceremony in the port city of Kaohsiung, marking a significant milestone in Taiwan’s military capabilities.
The Geo-Political Context
- Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, is a democratic island nation that China regards as a renegade province.
- The Chinese government has consistently asserted its intent to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary. This enduring dispute has been a long-standing source of regional tension.
- Amidst these tensions, U.S. officials have issued warnings that China could become militarily capable of mounting an invasion of Taiwan within the next few years. This possibility has led to heightened concerns both within Taiwan and among its allies.
The Significance of Taiwan’s Domestically-Made Submarine
- The $1.54 billion diesel-electric powered Haikun submarine represents a significant step in Taiwan’s efforts to enhance its defense capabilities.
- Taiwan’s goal is to operate a fleet of 10 submarines, which includes two older Dutch-made boats, and equip them with missiles.
- This fleet expansion aims to deter any potential attempts by China to encircle Taiwan for an invasion or impose a naval blockade.
- It also provides a buffer until U.S. and Japanese forces can arrive to support Taiwan’s defense.
China’s Response and International Implications
- The Chinese government has responded to Taiwan’s submarine with strong rhetoric, with a defense ministry spokesperson dismissing Taiwan’s efforts as “idiotic nonsense” and asserting that “no amount of weapons” can prevent reunification with the mainland.
- State media outlet Global Times has echoed these sentiments, calling Taiwan’s plans a “daydream” and an “illusion.”
- Taiwan’s successful development of its submarine program has seen support from several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
- These countries have provided components, technology, and talent for the project.
- This international collaboration represents a significant geopolitical shift and underscores growing doubts and dissatisfaction with Beijing’s policies.
Future Prospects and Conclusion
- While Taiwan’s 10-submarine fleet may not match China’s numerically superior submarine force, these vessels could play a crucial role in asymmetric warfare.
- Their stealth, lethality, and surprise capabilities make them suitable for guarding vital straits and channels in the region and conducting guerrilla-style warfare.
- Taiwan’s domestically-made submarine is not just a military asset but also a symbol of resilience in the face of regional challenges. It represents the island’s determination to protect its sovereignty and highlights the shifting dynamics in the region.