President says submarines are ‘best weaponry’

The China Post staff and agencies

President Chen Shui-bian boarded a submarine yesterday to inspect the Navy’s anti submarine warfare capabilities. The president boarded the “Sea Tiger,” a Dutch-made Sword Dragon-class submarine, to join an amphibious operation drill the Navy is conducting as part of the ongoing “Hankuang 20” military exercises. Su Tseng-chang, President Chen’s chief of staff, boarded another Sword Dragon class submarine, the “Sea Dragon, “ with members of the media accompanying him, for the same drill. The two subs submerged at around 910 a.m. off the coast from the Tsoying naval base near the southern port city of Kaohsiung, and then returned to the surface at around 1000 a.m. “Submarines would be the best weaponry to defend Taiwan from attack…as they are able to launch a blitz and easy to hide,” Chen told reporters after wrapping up the unprecedented exercise. “Given the Chinese communists’ refusal to drop their military threat, sustaining sufficient self-defense capability is a must to safeguard the lives and freedom of our fellow countrymen,” Chen said. “Intimidation and confrontation won’t help the development of peace between the two sides,” Chen said as he stood in front of a submarine. “Only respect and dialogue will lay the foundation for long-term peace and stability for the people and later generations.” “Their (Chinese) continued efforts to hike military spending and missiles targeting Taiwan have posed a threat to peace between the two sides,” he said. “I hereby want to stress that sustaining sufficient self-defense capability is by no means aimed to engage in an arms race with the Chinese communists,” he said. “Wars can only be stopped by full preparation for wars.” Chen addded. “We can’t rely on others for our defense,” he said. “We can only rely on ourselves.” The Cabinet’s controversial NT$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) budget includes a plan to buy eight U.S.-built submarines and new weaponry such as anti-missile Patriot systems and submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft over a 15-year period from 2005. The deal is to go before parliament for approval towards the end of the year. The Navy currently operates a fleet of four submarines, but only two of them could be deployed in the event of war. The other two are Guppy-class warships built by the United States in the 1940s. Before the first new submarines can be delivered to the island, The Ministry of National Defense plans to upgrade the combat capability of the two Dutch-built submarines which have been serving the navy for 16 years, the Liberty Times reported, without identifying its source. The two submarines would then be able to launch U.S.-made Harpoon missiles to attack maritime targets, it said, adding they would also be armed with air-independent propulsion systems that would make the warships to remain submerged on battery at slow speed for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, Chen has insisted the arms package is intended to defend Taiwan and has vowed to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait. After the United States agreed to sell Taiwan eight conventional submarines in 2001, the Navy decommissioned two older subs last year — the “Sea Lion” and the “Sea Leopard” — which had been an integral part of Taiwan’s submarine fleet, Navy sources said.