Britain Grants Record £167M Worth of Submarine-Related Licenses to Taiwan

Britain approved a significant increase in the export of submarine components and technology to Taiwan as the island nation upgrades its naval forces. 

According to UK government export licensing data, the value of licenses granted to British companies for the export of submarine-related technology and components to Taiwan amounted to a record £167 million ($201.29 million) during the first nine months of last year, which is more than the total of the previous six years combined. Although the data is publicly available, the latest Taiwan-related figures haven’t been reported before.

This decision could potentially affect British ties with China since Beijing views Taiwan as part of China and strongly opposes foreign interference with the island. When presented with the figures, China’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it seriously violates the One-China principle and undermines China’s sovereignty, security interests, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The UK doesn’t recognize Taiwan, and the two have no formal diplomatic relations. However, they maintain economic and trade ties, and Taipei has a de facto British embassy. In a statement, a British government spokesperson said that the UK has a long history of granting licenses for exports of controlled goods to Taiwan. They consider the Taiwan issue to be settled peacefully through constructive dialogue without force or coercion.

According to two government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity, the increase in licenses granted reflects Taiwan’s growing demand. Additionally, two lawmakers and two former officials believe that the approvals show Britain’s increased willingness to support Taiwan. One of the lawmakers said that authorizing the export licenses gave a “green light” to equip Taiwan better.

The data is from the Export Control Organisation, responsible for export licensing and within the UK Department for International Trade. It shows that the government authorized 25 export licenses to Taiwan during the first nine months of 2022 under the categories “components for submarines” and “technology for submarines.” However, the data doesn’t disclose which companies received authorization or what specific equipment it covers.

The British government recently announced an increase in defense spending as it unveiled an update to its defense, security, and foreign policy priorities, outlining how it plans to address new threats from China and Russia.

Taipei aims to test its first submarine prototype by September and deliver the first of eight vessels by 2025. Following Taiwan’s announcement to construct the submarine fleet in 2017, Britain’s issuance of submarine-related licenses began to rise. In 2020, Britain authorized the export of submarine components and technology worth 87 million pounds to Taiwan, up from 31,415 pounds in 2017 and zero in 2016, according to the licensing data. However, the value of such licenses granted in 2021 fell to just under 9 million pounds.

Written by Muhammad Tanveer