Homegrown Submarines; Missile Threat; Cross-Strait Trade Holds

Taiwan’s Homegrown Submarine Build

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen this week unveiled a new Indigenous Defense Submarine program as part of a commitment to boosting Taiwan’s defense system and improving the island-nation’s military self-reliance. The Ministry of National Defense has contracted the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) and shipbuilder CSBC Corporation for the design and construction of the new fleet, with the first new submarine to be ready within eight years.

President Tsai, speaking in Taipei on March 22, said the program was, “a large and ambitious undertaking – but one that shows our determination in moving ahead on this agenda.”

Defense Ministry Confirms Missile Threat

Earlier in the week, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had been deploying advanced ballistic missiles, known as the Dong Feng-16.

A U.S. Secretary of Defense report to Congress in 2016 noted that the Dong Feng-16, coupled with the already deployed conventional land-attack and anti-ship medium-range ballistic missiles, “will improve China’s ability to strike not only Taiwan, but other regional targets.”

Cross-Strait Trade Holds

Still, amid fears that cooler ties between Beijing and Taipei may be hurting the Taiwanese economy, there are signs that trade across the Taiwan Strait remains stable. Taiwan state media reported on Monday morning that the value of Chinese investments in Taiwan lifted 1.5 percent to US$248 million in 2016. While Taiwan’s Chinese imports declined 2.8 percent to US$44 billion and total trade across the Taiwan Strait dipped by 0.7 percent, Taiwan’s exports to China were up 0.6 percent to US$73.9 billion, Central News Agency (CNA) reports.

CNA, quoting figures from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, also noted that Chinese visitors to Taiwan dropped sharply last year, down 16 percent to 3.47 million. However, the impact of slower cross-Strait tourism in 2016 is expected to have been offset by a boost in tourists from Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia. Taiwan saw a record 10.69 million tourists last year, up 2.4 percent from 2015.

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