A history of why the Taiwanese Navy, in 2022, is still using two World War Two era GUPPY II conventional submarines would be a fascinating book – covering dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s delusional dreams of recovering his fictional China, to US Cold War policies, to misguided US policies on offensive versus defensive weapons, to the complications of Taiwanese domestic politics during the democracy era, that one of the two major political parties – the China KMT – has a national identity crisis (and hence, blocked the conventional submarine project for a decade.)
For a leaky Taiwanese national security scene, I have been impressed with how tightly the Tsai administration has held information on this ‘domestic’ submarine project. The fewer leaks the better, not just for the submarines project, but a sign that systemic problems in the national security apparatus are being fixed. While there were rumors of South Korean, or maybe Japanese involvement, recent reports indicate that the US and UK are the primary actors – with the recent British parliamentarians visiting Taipei indicating that discussions were held re: the submarines most interesting. A kind of soft AUKUS+ emerging – nuclear submarines for Australia and maybe Japan, conventional submarines for Taiwan.
What remains missing, I think, is a discussion-debate inside Taiwan, and then between Taiwan and its democratic allies, on an overall strategy to deter and defeat the China threat. Are eight submarines enough? Should they have offensive cruise missile capabilities? Are the submarines designed to operate with CSIST’s mini/unmanned underwater vehicles? Are they designed with interoperability with the Japanese and American Navy?
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