KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — Taiwan commissioned new naval minelayers on Friday to bolster its defenses against archrival China.
President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the commissioning of the Navy’s 1st and 2nd Mining Operations Squadrons, which will operate vessels capable of automatically seeding large numbers of small but powerful mines at high speed without the need for divers.
These technologies are part of a strategy to deter any possible incursion by China, which has a large military and a huge advantage in the number of warplanes, ships and other weapons.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up its threat to take control of the island by force through frequent military exercises and by sending fighter jets and other aircraft to fly close to the island if necessary.
The initial order for the four ships built by Lungteh Shipbuilding is part of Tsai Ing-wen’s efforts to revitalize the domestic arms industry and reduce Taiwan’s dependence on its main ally, the United States, for defensive weapons. Lungteh also produces guided missile frigates, patrol boats and other aircraft for the Taiwanese armed forces and police, as well as civilian aircraft.
The automatic mine-laying system was developed by the Zhongshan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan.
Tsai Ing-wen said at the ceremony that the ships gave the Navy “a more powerful force in protecting our waters.” Their service “shows the achievements of the homegrown defense industry and demonstrates to the world our determination to defend our country,” she said.
Lieutenant Xu Shuwei of the No. 2 Mining Operations Squadron said the new technology is only designed to “enhance our asymmetric combat power.”
“Our goal is to prevent the enemy from entering our island,” Xu said.