Submarines are a major factor in the Navy's efforts to beef up its defense capacity in the long term, said ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he after the opposition Democratic Progressive Party unveiled its fifth defense policy paper earlier in the day.
Lo said that while the Navy will maintain its efforts to acquire US-made submarines, it will also try to build its own or seek other supply sources.
At the launch of the DPP's defense policy paper, the party's chairman, Su Tseng-chang, said that if the DPP returns to power in 2016, it will immediately start to develop indigenous submarines and will not wait for a response from the United States on Taiwan's purchase requests.
Su said Taiwan's military spending should return to the level of 3% of GDP and the process of developing indigenous submarines should be sped up.
Legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang said the US is unlikely to build diesel-powered submarines for Taiwan because the US does not want to offend China. Furthermore, the US has not built diesel submarines in many years, he said.
Lin said Taiwan's capacity to build indigenous submarines is not as bad as imagined and it is time to show some resolve in that regard.
According to a military source, the United States agreed to sell Taiwan F-16 fighter jets after Taiwan started to develop indigenous defense fighters.
"If we can develop indigenous submarines to a certain degree, the US may consider a transfer of technology," the source said, adding that many shipbuilders in Taiwan are interested in submarine construction.
However, the entire issue hinges on the nation's defense spending, the source said.
York Chen, convener of the DPP's defense policy advisory committee, said that if Taiwan wants to build its own submarines, it should not waste time and money maintaining its 70-year-old Guppy class submarines.
Legislator Lin appeared to agree with Chen's view regarding the Guppy class submarines. "If we can't build our own submarines, we can at least learn a lot if we dismantle the two Guppy class vessels," Lin said.
Taiwan currently has two Guppy class submarines in service, both purchased from the Netherlands. It also has two other submarines, which formerly belonged to the US Navy and are now used mainly for training, according to the defense ministry's website.