© REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
China maintains the Taiwan question isn't open to negotiation and that it is still a central objective to reunify the renegade province with the mainland. Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Joe Biden during a virtual summit this month that forces advocating Taiwan's independence were "playing with fire".

The South Korean presidential palace on Tuesday rejected claims that the government was in any way assisting Taiwan with the self-governed island's "Indigenous Defence Submarine Programme", codenamed Hai Chang (Chinese for 'Sea Prosperity').

An official from the South Korean Presidential Palace described the claim as "untrue", adding that Seoul would investigate any "illegal transfer" of technology or expertise that may have taken place.Reuters reported on Monday, 29 November that at least seven countries - the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, South Korea and Canada - are helping Taiwan to build eight new submarines in a bid to increase its deterrence against China.

The self-governed Chinese province's naval force at present has four submarines and its naval capability is significantly dwarfed by that of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

Although several American companies are said to be supplying Taiwan with "key technology" - including sonars and combat-system components - British defence firms have also approved several licences to export sensitive technology to Taiwan over the past three years. The involvement of British and American firms in the Taiwanese project has been approved by their respective governments.

Engineers, former naval officers and technicians from Australia, India, South Korea, Spain and Canada have also been enlisted by the Taiwanese company for the project, according to the report.All seven countries said to be involved in the Taiwanese project profess their commitment to the One-China Policy and have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC) in India has refused either to confirm or deny the findings of the report.

US President Joe Biden re-affirmed Washington's commitment to the "One-China" principle during a virtual summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this month, the White House said.

The eight new diesel-electric attack submarines are being developed by the China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) in Kaohsiung, the second-biggest city in Taiwan on the island's southern seaboard.

The cost of the project is $16 billion, as estimated by UK-headquartered think-tank the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). The project started in 2017 and the construction of the first submarine began last year. It is believed that he first of the eight sub-sea boats will be delivered before 2025.

The report further states that firms in Japan, the Netherlands and Germany were also approached by the Taiwanese manufacturer for help with the project, but the governments didn't accede to CSBC's requests because of the risk of stoking up Beijing's anger.

The Chinese foreign ministry has warned the countries involved in the Taiwanese project, saying that they are "playing with fire and those who play with fire get burnt themselves."