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Reports of German Submarine Sales to Taiwan Overly Optimistic, says Pentagon - 2002-09-16


The Pentagon is describing as overly optimistic a Taiwanese news report indicating a German shipyard will build diesel-electric submarines for Taiwan.

Taiwan's United Daily News quoted a top official of Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) shipyard as assuring Taipei that the firm will build it eight submarines. The publication further quotes the German businessman as saying details of the deal will be finalized after Germany's upcoming national elections.

But Pentagon officials characterize the report issued Saturday as overly optimistic. They say no decisions have been made on awarding a contract for construction of the submarines. The officials say there are a number of viable proposals which are still being evaluated.

The United States last year approved the sale of a variety of weapons systems to Taiwan, including, for the first time, submarines. But one problem is that the United States no longer makes diesel-electric submarines. Other countries that do, including Germany, initially ruled out any possible sale of their models to Taiwan for fear of alienating Beijing.

Pentagon officials insist the United States would not have offered to sell submarines to Taiwan for its self-defense unless it was confident it could obtain them somewhere.

But aside from disclosing it has received several viable proposals, U.S. military officials have released no details.

The German shipyard HDW has drawn attention, however, following its acquisition earlier this year by American investors, a move that led some business analysts to speculate the firm could sidestep German restrictions on the sale of military technology.

However, German and U.S. officials both say any contracts for foreign military sales would still be covered by German export laws and German authorities, in the case of Taiwan, would still have to approve any submarine sale.

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