On Tuesday this week, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen said she was “proud” to launch its ‘Made in Taiwan’ submarine programme. She added the nation is “more determined than ever to continue developing our self defence industries and safeguard our sovereignty and democracy”.
The submarines will have weapons systems made by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
It is not the first time the US will have collaborated with Taiwan on its defence capabilities – it approved a $1.8bn (£1.3bn) weapons sale to the island nation just last month.
It follows reports of an unannounced visit by US Navy Rear Admiral Michael Studeman to Taiwan on Sunday – a move which prompted a furious response from China.
A Dutch-made Taiwanese Navy sub, pictured in 2007
According to Reuters, the navy official is involved with a US military intelligence body known as the J2. The Pentagon declined to comment.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned Beijing would “make legitimate and necessary responses” following Rear Admiral Studeman’s alleged visit.
China has repeatedly urged the US to stop engaging in “official exchanges” with Taiwan this year, warning such interactions would damage US-China relations.
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Taiwan is moving forward with its domestic submarine plans
However, if true, the Rear Admiral’s visit last weekend marks the third time this year a US official has travelled to Taiwan.
In August, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar travelled to the island nation, followed by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach.
Both times, Beijing officials warned the US the visits could threaten “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
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PLA soldiers march in Beijing. China has repeatedly sent military planes near to Taiwan in recent weeks
There are also plans for the US to send Andrew Wheeler, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, to Taiwan in early December.
China sees Taiwan as a ‘breakaway province’ though Taiwanese officials say their nation is sovereign.
Indeed, Beijing has warned that US visits to Taiwan could send “wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ elements”.
Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan, announced the submarine scheme this week
This week, China’s state-linked Global Times news outlet issued even sharper words.
It warned: “The Chinese mainland’s military drills are no longer merely a warning, but a combat exercise.
“All these have produced actual deterrence. Neither the US nor Taiwan can afford to take it lightly.”
It acknowledged that China’s People’s Liberation Army planes had crossed over the ‘median line’ of the Taiwan Strait multiple times this year.
Taipei, Taiwan's capital. The island nation has a complicated relationship with China
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence reported on the PLA flights entering Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, or ADIZ – incidents which have become near daily.
Most recently, it reported “One PLA Y-8 ASW aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ on November 25” and illustrated a flight path.
It said Taiwan had deployed “patrolling aircraft and air defence missile systems to monitor the activity.”