Taiwan may become a supplier of weapons to Western democracies, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, as she launched an advanced, missile-laden warship and commissioned a new minelayer.
Tsai praised the island’s increased weapons-design ability. She has made boosting the defence of the Chinese-claimed island a priority in the face of a growing military challenge from Beijing, according to Reuters.
Taiwan’s air force has benefited from new and upgraded American F-16s, and the navy is Tsai’s next focus. Submarines are already in production and Tuesday saw the launch of the Ta Chiang, the first of a fleet of highly manoeuvrable stealth corvettes.
The new Tuo Chiang-class corvettes have been dubbed by Taiwan’s navy the “aircraft carrier killer” due to its complement of anti-ship missiles. It can also carry Sky Sword anti-aircraft missiles.
Speaking at the launch in the eastern port city of Suao, Tsai said the vessel and the new minelayer would deter attacks and showcase Taiwan’s research and development ability.
“We have the determination and capability to complete the task of building our own ships, letting the world see our defence research and development energy,” Tsai said.
“In the future, we may also become a supply source of related equipment and components to Western democracies, driving the upgrading of the defence industry,” she said.
The US is Taiwan’s main source of weapons. Most countries shy away from arming the island, wary of angering Beijing and losing valuable commercial contracts with the world’s second-largest economy.
Tsai, re-elected in a landslide in January on a vow to stand up to China, has championed the concept of “asymmetric warfare”, focusing on high-tech, mobile weapons designed to make any Chinese attack as difficult as possible.
She has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring democratic Taiwan under its control.