Checkpoint Asia

Taiwan Asked for Partners to Help It Develop Its Own Submarines. North Korea Applied

North Koreans are actually ahead of Taiwan in submarine tech, but were turned down do to sanctions

As Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine project is underway, media reported the North Korean government years ago reached out to Taiwan’s military in an attempt to sell its advanced marine propulsion technology – Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) – for the project.

People familiar with the matter told UPmedia that a number of submarine builders and software providers from the United States, Europe among 16 other countries showed their interest in participating in the country’s indigenous submarine project. To the military department’s surprise, the North Korean military was among the bidders, reportedly pitching their products through a Taiwanese trading company.

The name of the trading company was not disclosed in the news story.

The report indicated that the company was pitching on behalf of the isolated nation, which has been enduring severe financial stress under the sanctions imposed by international bodies and a number of countries. The products on the list included North Korea’s miniature Yono-class submarine, Yugo-class submarine, Sang-O-class submarine, as well as the North Korean self-made AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) system.

The system is believed to enable the submarine to remain submerged for up to four weeks to better extend its underwater endurance, compared to an underwater endurance of only a few days in traditional diesel-electric submarines.

A submarine expert working for Taiwan’s military reportedly made a fact-checking trip years ago to the China-DPRK border city of Dandong to meet the North Korean military officials, from whom the expert verified the authenticity of the bid and its capability to carry out the task.

However, Taiwan’s military eventually didn’t consider the technologies out of concern that it would violate UN sanctions against North Korea.

Also, recently at a press event, a military official told media that Taiwan’s first indigenous submarine would not be equipped with the advanced and expensive AIP system, but will consider it for the other indigenous submarines in the future.

Source: Taiwan News

A bit more background:

Submarines are a critical asset for Taiwan’s Navy, the Republic of China Navy (ROCN). They provide critical intelligence gathering, patrol, and deterrence capabilities in the Taiwan Strait. However, they are few in number. The ROCN has four submarines, only two of which are used operationally.

Pressure by the People’s Republic of China on would-be exporters has prevented Taiwan from buying full submarines abroad, so Taiwan has started its own indigenous submarine program.