Taiwan will set aside more than 21 percent of its defense budget next year for the development of indigenous weapons, President Tsai Ing-wen said.
Taiwan has struggled since the 1980s to procure submarines and other defense equipment, Focus Taiwan reported Tsai as saying in remarks at Navy Command Headquarters on Monday, August 6.
The government’s proposed 2019 national budget increases defense spending by NT$18.3 billion (US$592.6 million), to NT$364 billion or 2.16 percent of GDP.
Of the total defense spending, NT$73.6 billion, or 21.3 percent, will be spent on the development of indigenous weapons systems, Tsai said. The number is an increase of NT$25 billion allocated for the 2018 budget.
The budget also includes NT$95.1 billion for military investment, an increase of NT$13.9 percent.
Tsai explained that Taiwan’s difficulty in obtaining submarines since it purchased the Dutch Zwaardvis-class diesel submarines in the 1980s had sparked the plans to build its own.
“Faced with such challenges, we should try to resolve them, instead of recoiling in fear,” she said.
In May, Dutch shipbuilder RH Marine gave Taiwan permission to upgrade and modernize two of its aging Hai Lung-class submarines, modeled after the Zwaardvis-class used by the Dutch Navy.
Under pressure from China, Taiwan has had difficulty buying weapons from anyone but the United States or upgrading its existing arsenals, and has developed an indigenous defense industry.
In April, Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science exhibited 21 “Made in Taiwan” weapons systems, including the Hsiung Feng III missile system and the Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missile system.
Tsai has been pushing indigenous technology since taking office in 2016.
In addition to upgrading its Hai Lung-class submarines, Taiwan also seeks to purchase technology from the United States that would enable an indigenously made submarine, similar to how it developed its indigenous fighter aircraft, the F-CK-1.
The U.S. State Department authorized the sale of submarine technology from American defense companies to Taiwan in April, and in June the Department of Defense awarded U.K.-based BAE Systems a nearly $84 million contract for 36 Assault Amphibious Vehicles for Taiwan.