Taiwan waves new frigates at China
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed yesterday 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.
China has upped military drills including a live fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April, declaring its willingness to confront the island’s “independence forces”.
China has been incensed by warming ties between Washington and Taipei, including the State Department’s approval of a preliminary licence to sell submarine technology to the island.
The two Perry-class guided missile frigates were 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,” Ms 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”.
Navy chief of staff Lee Chung-hsiao has said the warships’ anti-submarine 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.
Beijing has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since Ms Tsai took office in 2016, as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”, unlike the government of her Beijing-friendly predecessor. In September, Washington irked Beijing when it announced plans to sell Taiwan $US330 million in spare parts for several aircraft.
Built in the 1980s, the two frigates were originally named USS Taylor and USS Gary and were part of a $US1.8 billion US arms deal to Taiwan announced in 2015 under the administration of Barack Obama.
They have been renamed Ming Chuan and Feng Chia.