Taiwan flexes navy muscles

China | 9 Nov 2018

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen vowed yesterday that the island would defend itself solidly as she inaugurated two frigates bought from the United States aimed at boosting Taipei's naval capabilities against the mainland.

Beijing has upped military drills, including a live-fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April, in showing a willingness to confront the island's independence elements.

Chinese leaders have also been incensed by recent warming ties between Washington and Taipei, including the US State Department's approval of a deal to sell submarine technology to Taiwan.

The two Perry-class guided missile frigates were commissioned in a ceremony at the Zuoying base in Kaohsiung, where Tai said after inspecting them: "We will not concede one step in defending Taiwan and protecting our free and democratic way of life."

China's "military actions in the region not only attempt to weaken Taiwan's sovereignty but will also damage regional peace and stability," she added.

Tsai vowed too to continue enhancing navy capabilities as part of the military's goal to maintain "solid defense and multi-layered deterrence."

Vice Admiral Lee Chung-hsiao said earlier that the two warships' anti-submarine capabilities are more advanced than the island's existing eight Cheng Kung-class frigates and defense experts say they could have deterrent effects on China's submarines.

Built in the 1980s, the frigates were originally named Taylor and Gary and were part of a US arms deal for Taiwan announced by then president Barack Obama in 2015.

Renamed Ming Chuan and Feng Chia, they are said be highly mobile and are fitted with a sonar system used by the US Navy.

The ships will be deployed to patrol the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office two years ago, as her government refuses to acknowledge 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 spare parts for aircraft.

Washington remains Taipei's most powerful unofficial ally and main arms supplier despite recognizing Beijing in 1979.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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