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Taiwan Sends Submarine Into the South China Sea

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: November 15, 2021
The United States is helping Taiwan develop a new submarine to replace its older models.
The United States is helping Taiwan develop a new submarine to replace its older models. (Image: SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

The South China Sea is one of the most hotly contested geographical regions today. Beijing claims a large portion of it and has constructed several artificial islands in South China Sea waters. 

Neighboring nations, such as Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan, have all expressed worries about the communist Chinese regime’s belligerent attitude in the region. Taiwan has boldly sent one of its most advanced submarines into the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to conduct naval drills.

This information was revealed in a report published by the Taiwanese government. According to the National Defense Report 2021, an Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) submarine from the 256th Fleet conducted several missions, such as Air Force and Navy missile shooting drills, anti-submarine exercises, a tactical combat drill at the Spratly Islands, and routine patrol. The report does not mention when exactly the drills at Spratly took place.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that he isn’t surprised about a Taiwanese submarine in the South China Sea. The sub will likely collect intelligence on Beijing and other claimants of the island. The military exercises will boost the combat proficiency of the Taiwanese forces, he stated.

“It’s expected that the ROCN (Taiwan) subs would conduct peacetime missions in the Spratlys anyway as Taiwan has sizable possessions in the disputed area… In times of a Taiwan Strait war, I believe Taiwanese defense planners will also want to ensure that its southern flank is properly secured,” Koh said.

The report comes as Taiwan is expected to lay down the keel of the country’s first indigenous submarine this month. At present, the island has four submarines. Two of them were procured from the United States and have been in service since the Second World War. 

The remaining two were bought from the Netherlands in the nineties. With such outdated submarines, it would be difficult combating communist China if the situation arises. This is why the Taiwanese government is focusing on its indigenous submarine development program.

The first homemade sub is expected to be launched by the first half of 2024 and inducted into the Navy by 2025. Some reports suggest that national security officials are looking to speed up the submarine development to get it ready as early as Sept. 2023.

The United States is helping Taiwan in the construction process, providing key technology like digital sonar systems, torpedoes, diesel engines, and combat system integration. A version of the AN/BYG-1 submarine combat management system that is used in American nuclear-powered subs is also being offered.

In an article published on Nov. 15, the Chinese state-backed media outlet Global Times took a swing at Taiwan’s military development, insisting that communist China will always be at the top in this regard. 

“No matter how Taiwan develops or purchases arms, it cannot change the military disparity across the Taiwan Straits… Taiwan secessionists that resist reunification by force is bound to meet a dead end,” the report said.