The U.S. will approve the sale of MK-48 heavyweight torpedoes for Taiwan after delaying it for several years, Defense News reported Thursday, citing a Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND) official. The move comes at a time of heightened tensions in the South China Sea where the U.S. has urged China to avoid militarizing the region.
Neither Taiwan nor the U.S. has officially confirmed the agreement. However, according to Defense News, the torpedoes will be set up on Taiwan’s two remaining combat attack submarines once their life extension program is completed.
Taiwan will also go ahead with the Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program to develop eight attack submarines. The MND source told Defense News that China will not easily invade Taiwan because of Taipei’s ten attack submarines equipped with Mk-48 torpedoes and additional UGM-84L Harpoons.
The torpedo is manufactured by the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon. According to the company website, the MK-48 is “effective” against "all targets, in both littoral and deep-water environment."
"The torpedo is capable of autonomous operations or control via wire link," according to the website.
The reported development comes when tensions are mounting in the South China Sea where China has laid most claims. About $5 trillion worth of maritime trade passes every year from the region. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have conflicting claims over territory in the area.
On Wednesday, President Obama said that the U.S. will continue its presence in the disputed region as per international law. The U.S. and China both have accused one another of militarizing the disputed area.