Taiwan turns to Russia for submarines after US stall: report
Taiwan has sought help from Russia to upgrade its submarines after a lack of progress in plans to buy new subs from the United States, a report said Wednesday.
The Taiwanese military sent a team to Russia in October to inquire about replacing the frames of its four ageing submarines, said the Next magazine, citing unnamed sources.
After the team met a shipbuilder in Moscow, Taiwan's defence and intelligence authorities are now evaluating the possibility of collaborating with Russia, it said.
The move came after Taipei's failure so far to acquire new submarines from Washington despite repeated requests to boost its naval defence against threats posed by China, the weekly said.
The government hopes to stress to Washington its wish to still buy the submarines even though ties with Beijing have warmed recently, the report said.
The US is Taiwan's leading arms supplier and Washington announced in January a 6.4-billion-dollar arms package to the island, although it has yet to decide on whether to sell the submarines and F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.
Analysts have said they doubt Washington would risk further angering Beijing by approving the more sensitive items.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the end of a 1949 civil war, but Beijing has repeatedly threatened to invade should the island declare formal independence.
The defence ministry denied the report, in line with its policy on sensitive arms issues.
"The military is cautiously optimistic and continues to urge the United States to authorise the submarine deal," it said in a statement.
Taiwan's navy operates a fleet of four submarines, but only two of them, Dutch-built, could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s.
© 2010 AFP