Britain approved increased exports of submarine parts and technology to Taiwan to upgrade its naval forces, which could adversely affect the relationship between Britain and China.
British government export licensing data indicates that during the first nine months of last year, companies were granted 167 million pounds ($201.29 million) by the British government for the export of submarine-related components and technology to Taiwan. According to a news media outlet that examined the data, that is more than the previous six years combined.
Taiwan is considered part of China, a concept known as the Single-China policy, and Beijing is strongly opposed to perceived foreign interference with Taiwan, believing that such interference supports Taiwan’s desire to become an independent state.
As China’s foreign minister stated in an interview, if this is true, it violates the one-China principle, undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests, and jeopardized Taiwan Strait stability.
“This is of grave concern to China and is strongly opposed by China,” according to a written statement urging Britain to “refrain from providing military assistance to the Taiwan authorities.”
Taiwan is not recognized by Britain, and it has no formal diplomatic relations with the island. However, British trade and economic ties remain strong, and there is a de facto British embassy in Taiwan.
In a statement, a British government spokesperson said the UK has “granted licenses on a case-by-case basis to export controlled products to Taiwan, where these applications are consistent with International arms and dial-use product regulations.”
As a result of constructive dialogue, we view the Taiwan issue as a peaceful one, which can be resolved without force or coercion on either side of the Taiwan Strait.
As the issue is sensitive, two government officials spoke on condition of anonymity. Government officials believe the increase in licenses granted is a result of increased demand from Taiwan.
EXTENSION OF TENSION
Several hundred miles southeast of the Chinese coast, Taiwan is building a fleet of submarines as a part of its naval defenses. It is the highest level of tension between the two countries in decades.
For decades, Taiwan has been unable to purchase conventional submarines from other countries for fear of aggravating China.
China’s sovereignty claims are strongly rejected by Taiwan’s democratically elected government, which says only the island’s people can make decisions about the future of the island.
During a response to a request for comment on the submarine-related exports from Britain, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had been promoting “several projects in a pragmatic way under it.”
“We hope that all walks of life will support us since Taiwan Strait plays such an important role in global peace and security.”
A prototype of the first vessel is expected to be tested by September, and the first vessel is expected to be delivered by 2025.
Taiwan announced in 2017 that it would build a submarine fleet, prompting Britain to grant licenses related to submarines.
According to licensing data, Britain approved exports to Taiwan of 87 million pounds in 2020, an increase from 31 415 pounds in 2017 and none in 2016. It is estimated that just under 9 million pounds worth of such licenses were approved in 2021.
“Every decision we make around Taiwan is deliberate and cautious,” said the former British official. A senior official said when asked about the decision to increase export licenses: “You just don’t do something like this without considering all the implications very carefully.”