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Taiwan adds mine-laying to defenses against China

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan on Friday ordered new navy minelayers to bolster its defenses against giant rival China.

President Tsai Ing-wen presided over a commissioning ceremony for the Navy’s First and Second Mining Operations Squadrons, which will operate vessels capable of automatically sowing large numbers of small but powerful mines at high speed without the need for divers.

Such technologies are part of a strategy to deter any possible invasion of China, with its huge army and vast superiority in warplanes, ships and other weapons.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up its threat to bring it under its control by force if necessary with frequent military exercises and sending fighter jets and other planes to fly near the island.

The initial order for four ships manufactured by Lungteh Shipbuilding is part of Tsai’s drive to revitalize the domestic arms industry and reduce Taiwan’s dependence on the United States’ main ally for defensive weapons. Lungteh also produces missile corvettes, patrol boats and other craft for the Taiwanese armed forces and police, as well as for civilian use.

The automatic mine laying system was developed by the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology of Taiwan.

Ships give the navy “even stronger power to protect our waters,” Tsai said at the ceremony. Their commissioning “demonstrated the fruits of the indigenous defense industry and showed the world our determination to defend our country,” she said.

Lt. Hsu Shu-wei of the Second Mining Operations Squadron said the purpose of the new technology was simply to “strengthen our asymmetric war power.”

“Our goal is to deter the enemy from entering our island,” Hsu said.

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