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UK export statistics show scope of Taiwan submarine support

Taiwan's first locally built submarine is seen during the unveiling ceremony at the CSBC Corporation shipbuilding company in Kaohsiung on 28 September. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

UK government statistics show that in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 it continued to issue licences facilitating the export of submarine components and technologies to Taiwan.

The exported equipment almost certainly supports Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) programme. In late September the island unveiled the first submarine in this programme, which is under way amid increasingly hostile relations between China and Taiwan.

The UK statistics – released by the government's Export Control Joint Unit under the Department for Business and Trade – show that during Q1 of 2023 the UK granted 21 military standard individual export licences (SIELs) to Taiwan worth GBP31.6 million (USD38.4 million).

These included SIELs for “software for submarines”, “components for submarines”, as well as other related systems in the naval domain such as “technology for combat naval vessels”, “technology for naval electronic equipment”, and “technology for naval engines”.

In Q1 of 2023 the total value of SIELs for vessels and related naval equipment, under a UK export category known as ML9, was GBP5.8 million. According to UK export information, ML9 covers “vessels (surface or underwater) specially designed or modified for military use” as well as special naval equipment and accessories.

The export licences granted to UK industry in 2023 continued a trend from 2022. In 2022 the UK granted 98 SIELs worth GBP243.6 million. Of these, 33 SIELs, worth GBP147.1 million, were awarded under ML9.

The statistics also show that in 2022 the UK granted 20 permanent SIELs for “components for submarines”, including submarine accessories and spare parts, and seven permanent SIELs for “technology for submarines”.

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