US defense contractors will help Taiwan to construct its own submarines by providing Taipei with conventional technology to counter threats from China.
Taiwan last year launched a plan to manufacture its own submarines amid deteriorating relations with China after its hopes of buying them from the US came to nothing.
The US state department has approved granting license necessary to sell Taiwan the technology needed for its submarine project, Taiwan defence ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Sunday.
“It is part of a process. We’ll take it step by step,” Chung-chi told AFP.
China has protested at the move, saying the US should stop official exchanges with Taiwan to avoid “damaging Sino-US relations”.
Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 but maintains trade relations with the island and is its main arms supplier.
“The announcement from the US is the first step. Whether we are talking about components, systems or other technology, US manufacturers would still need to obtain export permits,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ding-yu who sits on the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee said.
Taiwan’s navy currently operates a fleet of four submarines, bought from abroad but only two of them can be deployed in the event of war.
The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s and are only used in training as they are too old for combat.
The first domestically-built submarine is expected to be deployed within 10 years.