A delegation of Taiwanese legislators met with Pentagon officials this week, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. A key topic discussed was a novel way to build submarines for the Taiwanese, we are told.
Under a plan percolating in the Pentagon, Russia would sell the United States eight very quiet Kilo-class submarines outfitted with Russian weapons but equipped with U.S. electronics and propulsion systems, defense officials said.
One official said Russian President Vladimir Putin quietly has signed off on the deal as long as the submarines are sold to the United States. "If the Americans resell them [to Taiwan], it's none of Russia's business," the official quoted Mr. Putin as telling U.S. officials.
Other options call for using another European design or building the submarines from the U.S. Barbell-class diesel submarine design.
The submarine deal, however, is still being held up over cost estimates.
Of course, China, which currently has several Kilo submarines in its navy, is expected to object vehemently, as it has to all U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The submarines were high on the agenda of the 15 visiting Taiwanese legislators, along with the island's plans to buy P-3C antisubmarine-warfare aircraft and Patriot antimissile batteries, the officials said.
The delegation visited a Patriot PAC-3 antimissile unit at Foot Hood, Texas, and a P-3C base in Hawaii. They also visited an Aegis battle-management-equipped warship in Pearl Harbor.
According to defense officials, Mr. Wolfowitz urged the Taiwanese to move ahead with the acquisition of $8 billion worth of U.S. arms that the Pentagon has offered Taipei since 2001.
The Pentagon is worried that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait has already shifted in favor of Beijing, which now has 550 missiles aimed at the island. Additionally, China has purchased Kilos with advanced torpedos; Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers and Su-27 and Su-30 warplanes outfitted with advanced missiles.