Late on Friday, 2 April, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry made an official statement claiming European involvement in Taiwan’s submarine projects. The statement was made in response to accusations by The National Interest magazine that the DPRK has offered assistance to the island nation in the construction of their Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) Program:
“In the development of our submarines there has never been, there is not now and will never be any contact with North Korea; assistance is all provided by important countries in Europe and the United States.”
The Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) Program seeks to manufacture eight diesel-electric attack submarines to replace Taiwan’s increasingly ancient submarine flotilla. The project began back in the 2010s with the US facilitating the procurement of technology for the indigenous boats. European involvement makes sense because of the region’s expertise in diesel-electric submarines building.
It is rare for Taiwan to admit any outside support for its defense projects unless this comes from the Untied States. However, a decision to invoke Europe, may mean two things.
First of all, with growing European involvement in the Pacific and increased weariness towards China, Taiwan is less fearful of pushing away European nations by placing them in an antagonistic position vis a vis the PRC. Europe has long tried to avoid the trade repercussions of angering China but with NATO’s European Secretary General speaking directly of NATO needing to address the threat of China; British, French and German deployments to the Pacific; and what seems to be a growing willingness to contest China economically through sanctions, Taiwan may be less concerned with its comments resulting in Europe recoiling from its commitments under Chinese pressure.
Secondly, the statement may be seen as a warning to China: “Europe too, not just America and its Pacific allies, has our back”. China has been growing increasingly aggressive in its intrusions into Taiwanese airspace, with a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft fittingly entering Taiwan’s ADIZ a day after the announcement. This could arguably be read as a response to the submarine statement but intrusions by Y-8s are not unusual. Back in March, US Admiral Philip Davidson famously stated that China may attempt to capture Taiwan in the next six years.
The Defense Ministry statement comes just two days after Taiwan announced plans to procure upgraded Patriot PAC-3 interceptor missiles.