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29 Sep, 2023 03:45

Taiwan unveils ‘magical weapon’ against Beijing

Taipei says its new submarine is meant to ward off a potential attack by Chinese forces
Taiwan unveils ‘magical weapon’ against Beijing

Taiwan has revealed its first-ever domestically produced submarine, with leader Tsai Ing-wen hoping the move would make the island more “self-reliant.” The developer of the $1.5-billion sub previously dubbed it a “magical weapon in asymmetric warfare” with Beijing.

Tsai oversaw the vessel's launch ceremony on Thursday, set to be the first of eight new submarines to enter service by 2025. They will join just two other subs in Taipei’s fleet, both obtained from the Netherlands some four decades ago.

“In the past, a domestically developed submarine was considered an impossible task. But, today, a submarine designed and manufactured by our country's people sits before our eyes,” she said, adding that “Taiwan must take this step and allow the self-reliant national defense policy to grow and flourish on our land.”

The announcement comes amid repeated warnings from Taiwanese officials about Chinese military activity in the airspace and waters around the island, with Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng recently pointing to a string of “land, sea, air and amphibious” drills by the People’s Republic.

The submarine project was launched in 2016 and has cost Taipei over $1.5 billion, with the first prototype named “Hai Kun” – or “mythical sea creature” in Chinese. Keeping with its moniker, the developer of the sub, CSBC Corp, has described the vessel as a “magical weapon in asymmetric warfare,” a claim echoed by Taiwan’s leader on Thursday.

A representative for China’s Defense Ministry responded to the news during a daily press briefing later on Thursday. Asked about the new hardware and whether it could “prevent the People's Liberation Army from entering the Pacific” in the event of a conflict, spokesman Wu Qian dismissed the idea as “nonsense.” 

“It is just a mantis trying to use its arms to stop a chariot, and it will eventually lead to its own destruction,” Wu said, referring to Taiwan’s military modernization efforts. The official added: “No matter how many weapons the [Taiwanese] authorities build or purchase, they cannot stop the general trend of the reunification of the motherland.”

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, claiming the right to reunify with the island by force should it ever declare independence. Though few nations recognize Taipei as a sovereign state, the US and several allies maintain informal but strategic relations with the self-governing territory, frequently drawing the ire of China.

The Chinese military has launched major wargames following high-level meetings between US and Taiwanese officials over the last year, including a massive simulated blockade after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in 2022. A similar demonstration was held last April following a sit-down between Pelosi’s successor, Representative Kevin McCarthy, and Tsai.