Taiwan’s president on Thursday oversaw the commissioning of a new domestically-built naval warship as part of the island’s plan to boost local defence capabilities amid rising tensions with China. President Tsai Ing-wen spoke at a naval base in Su’ao, on the island’s east coast, and said the ship “shows that on the road to independence in national defence, no matter what difficulties arise, we can overcome them one by one”.

The ship, christened Ta Jiang and nicknamed the “aircraft carrier killer”, was built by Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co, a Taiwanese company, and is designed to have air defence and anti-ship missile-carrying capabilities. It is the first of six such ships to be commissioned by the Taiwanese Navy. The upgraded Tuo Chiang-class warships come equipped with subsonic and supersonic anti-aircraft missiles, as well as a variety of weaponry including torpedo tubes and Hsiung Feng III missiles capable of engaging targets at ranges of up to 250 miles.

President Tsai has prioritised boosting Taiwan’s national defence industry and encouraged the military aviation industry to produce new trainer aircraft. She has also called for the development of more sophisticated systems using the island’s high-tech industries.

China claims that Taiwan is part of its national territory, although the two have functioned independently since a civil war in 1949. In recent years, Taiwan has faced increasing harassment from Beijing, which has sent fighter jets to fly towards the island almost daily.

On Sunday, China’s People’s Liberation Army sent 19 fighter jets into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the island’s Defence Ministry said. In August, the PLA conducted live assault drills with a squadron of fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and combat ships.

In the event of a military confrontation in the Taiwan Strait, heavily armed corvettes, which will be harder to detect thanks to new stealth technology, will be adept at surprise attacks using hit-and-run tactics, according to reports.

Taiwan is currently producing its own submarine after four years of research and design after Beijing successfully prevented it from buying such vessels abroad in recent years through the use of economic and diplomatic threats.

In 2020, Tsai launched Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine programme, promising to deliver the first of eight diesel-electric submarine vessels by 2025. The new ‘Made in Taiwan’ submarines will carry US-made weapons systems from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.


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