Tai­wan waves new frigates at China

The Australian - - WORLD - KAOH­SI­UNG:

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.

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