Tai­wan ups naval power with frigate pur­chase

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

TAI­WANESE Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing­wen vowed on Thurs­day that the is­land would not “con­cede one step” in de­fend­ing it­self as she in­au­gu­rated two frigates bought from the US aimed at boost­ing Taipei’s naval ca­pa­bil­i­ties against China.

Ri­val China has upped mil­i­tar y drills in­clud­ing a live fire ex­er­cise in the Tai­wan Strait in April, declar­ing its will­ing­ness to con­front the is­land’s “in­de­pen­dence forces”.

The two Perry-class guided mis­sile frigates were of­fi­cially com­mis­sioned in a cer­e­mony at Zuoy­ing base in south­ern Kaoh­si­ung city.

“We want to send a clear and firm mes­sage from Tai­wanese peo­ple to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that we will not con­cede one step in de­fend­ing ... Tai­wan and pro­tect­ing our free and demo­cratic way of life,” Tsai said af­ter in­spect­ing the ships.

China’s “mil­i­tary ac­tions in the re­gion not only at­tempt to weaken Tai­wan’s sovereignty but will also dam­age re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity,” Tsai warned.

She vowed to con­tinue en­hanc­ing the navy’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties as part of the mil­i­tary’s goal to main­tain what it calls “solid de­fence and multi-lay­ered de­ter­rence” to guard the is­land.

Navy chief of staff Vice Ad­mi­ral Lee Chung-hsiao had said pre­vi­ously the war­ships’ an­ti­sub­ma­rine ca­pa­bil­i­ties are more ad­vanced than the is­land’s ex­ist­ing eight Cheng Kung-class frigates and could have “de­ter­rent ef­fects” against China’s sub­marines.

The US de facto em­bassy in Taipei, the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute in Tai­wan, said the sale would “im­prove Tai­wan’s ca­pa­bil­ity in cur­rent and fu­ture de­fen­sive ef­forts” as well as sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

The ships will be de­ployed to pa­trol the Tai­wan Strait, the nar­row wa­ter­way that sep­a­rates the is­land and China, ac­cord­ing to the navy.

Bei­jing has stepped up diplo­matic and mil­i­tary pres­sure on Tai­wan since Tsai took of­fice two years ago, as her govern­ment re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge that Tai­wan is part of “one China”, un­like the govern­ment of her Bei­jingfriendly pre­de­ces­sor.

Built in the 1980s, the two frigates were orig­i­nally named USS Tay­lor and USS Gary and were part of a $1.8 bil­lion US arms deal to Tai­wan an­nounced in 2015 un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of US pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

They have been re­named Ming Chuan and Feng Chia.

Ac­cord­ing to Tai­wan’s navy, the war­ships have “high mo­bil­ity, high sea re­sis­tance and low noise” and are fit­ted with the SQR-19 sonar sys­tem cur­rently used by US navy.

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