Taiwan to build minesweepers to combat blockade threat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 6:08pm

Taiwan plans to spend US$1.2 billion on building six minesweepers as part of efforts to negate Beijing’s ability to blockade the island in a future conflict, a legislator said on Monday.

The minesweepers will be built between next year and 2025, according to Lin Yu-fang, a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang party who sits on parliament’s defence committee. He was citing the defence ministry’s draft next year budget.

“Once the project is completed, the navy’s anti-blockade capabilities will be enhanced significantly,” he said in a statement, adding that the budget, scheduled to total NT$35.9 billion, was pending parliament’s final approval.

Last month Taiwan received two Osprey class minesweepers, the second largest vessel of its kind in the world, from the United States, the island’s leading arms supplier despite a lack of diplomatic ties since 1979.

Ties between Taiwan and the mainlandhave improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links with the mainland.

Beijing has repeatedly threatened to use military force against Taiwan should the island declare formal independence, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced weapons.

A blockade is one of the ways in which the mainland is considered likely to exert military pressure on Taiwan, as a full-scale D-day style invasion might be far too costly for their military.