Wed, May 15, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan should not fund the PLA

By Tu Ho-ting 杜和庭

The French frigate Vendemiaire’s passage through the Taiwan Strait on April 6 sparked China’s acrimonious response, which indicated not only its expansive ambitions, but also a serious security concern to the region.

Chinese National Ministry of Defense spokesman Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang (任國強) accused the vessel of “illegally entering Chinese waters” and canceled the ship’s participation in a naval parade to celebrate the Chinese navy’s 70th anniversary on April 23 in Qingdao.

It was the first time that China has referred to the Taiwan Strait with such strong sovereign and legal implications — revealing an intention to encompass the international waterway into its territorial or economic exclusive zone.

According to a Financial Times report, the French Ministry of Defense said that its navy had been transiting the Taiwan Strait at least once a year without incident or reaction from China. Obviously, China’s stern response was purposefully aimed to dramatize the passage and was in sharp contrast to its response when US warships sailed through the waterway.

The US sent two destroyers, the USS William P. Lawrence and the USS Stethem, though the Strait on April 28. It was the seventh time that US warships had sailed through the waters since July last year and the fourth this year — once every month.

When navigating the Strait from south to north, one of the US warships turned on its automatic identification system, which sends signals to other ships nearby to avoid collisions, to enable the public to track it on the Internet or through mobile applications.

The high-profile transit was unprecedented and the US’ message was clear.

The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet confirmed the passage the next day and said in a statement that “the ships’ transit through Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

For the US, it was a part of its freedom of navigation operations to ensure free passage through the the waterway as allowed by international law.

Rather than the intimidating rhetoric Beijing used against France, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said that China had paid close attention to the US passage and expressed its concerns to the US. Similar mantras had been repeated in the previous months when US warships transited the Strait.

For example, on Feb. 24, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that “we are firmly opposed to the US’ provocative acts, which neither keep the peace and stability of Taiwan Strait nor help the development the China-US relations.”

China’s toned-down response to the determined US posture clearly reveals its bullying and aggressive nature. Showing weakness to China only emboldens its ambitions and risks further dangers.

Nevertheless, Chinese military threats are daunting and relentlessly increasing.

The Pentagon in its latest China Military Power report said that “Taiwan persistently remains the PLA’s [the Chinese People’s Liberation Army] ‘strategic direction’” and “China has an array of options for a Taiwan campaign, ranging from an air and maritime blockade to a full-scale amphibious invasion to seize and occupy some or all of Taiwan or its offshore islands.”

With these military options, Beijing’s key goals range from demonstrating its readiness to use force or taking punitive actions against Taiwan, to forcing Taiwan into capitulating to unification or unification dialogue, the report said.

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