Taiwan’s Tsai Visits Base as China Protests US Ship Passage – The Diplomat

China’s power

Tsai’s visit to the base in the central county of Chiayi comes as Taiwan seeks to bolster its defenses against the growing threat from China.

Taiwan's Tsai visits base as China protests US ship passage

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, center, accompanied by officials, looks on at an F-16 fighter jet at a military base in Chiayi, southwestern Taiwan, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.

Credit: Official photo by Wang Yu Ching / Office of the President

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen visited a military base on Friday to observe drills as rival China protested the passage of a US Navy destroyer through the Taiwan Strait, as tensions between the sides showed no sign of easing in the new year.

Beijing claims that self-governing Taiwan as Chinese territory must be brought under its control by force if necessary and regularly objects to the passage of US and other foreign warships through the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s busiest waterways.

Tsai’s visit to the base in the central county of Chiayi comes as Taiwan seeks to bolster its defenses against the growing threat from China. It includes expansion of the domestic shipbuilding and arms industry, purchase of more defensive weaponry from the United States and extension of conscription for all men from four months to a full year starting in 2024.

Along with observing the display of an army mechanized infantry battalion, Tsai visited the air force’s Fourth Tactical Fighter Wing, whose pilots are largely responsible for intercepting Chinese military aircraft approaching the center line of the Taiwan Strait.

“I would like to reiterate that the continued activities of the People’s Liberation Army (around Taiwan) are not helpful to cross-strait relations or to the peace and stability of the region,” Tsai said.

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“As we face the expansion of authoritarianism, we can only strengthen the country’s fighting capacity and toughness to ensure our national security and interests,” Tsai said.

Meanwhile, China accused the United States of “publicly hyping” the passage Thursday of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon through the strait, adding that its forces were monitoring the ship at all times.

“The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army organized troops to monitor the entire passage of the US ship and was fully aware of all its actions,” command spokesman Col. Shi Yi said in a brief statement posted on social media.

The US says the strait is international waters outside the territorial sea of ​​any coastal state.

“The Chung-Hoon’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US military flies, sails and operates wherever international law allows,” Japan’s 7th Fleet said in a statement.

China’s attempts to militarily intimidate Taiwan have risen to new heights in recent months, raising concerns in Washington that Beijing is moving closer to using force. That has included launching missiles into the sea and sending planes and ships across the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait in August in response to a visit to the island by US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

Last month, it sent a record 71 aircraft and seven ships against Taiwan in a 24-hour show of force after expressing anger over Taiwan-related provisions in an annual US defense spending bill.


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