Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Concerns that warship name might cause confusion

By Lo Tien-bin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Si Ning, right, is greeted by a tug as it returns to Kaohsiung’s Zuoying military harbor on June 14, 2013.

Photo: Huang Chih-yuan, Taipei Times

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) naming its recently completed destroyer Xining (西寧), using the same Chinese characters as the Taiwanese frigate Si Ning, might lead to confusion if the ships encounter each other on maneuvers, Taiwanese military observers said.

According to Chinese media affiliated with the PLA, the Xining is an indigenously developed Type 052D advanced guided-missile destroyer, with a displacement of 7,500 tonnes and low radar visibility.

The Republic of China (ROC) Navy “does not rule out” the possibility of the Si Ning encountering the Xining, a Ministry of National Defense official in Taipei said on condition of anonymity.

Although the Xining is assigned to the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet, it is a principal combat ship and is therefore likely to conduct transoceanic and expeditionary warfare training, including those conducted near Taiwanese waters, the official said.

The Si Ning is a Kang Ding-class frigate, with the pennant number DDG-124, and is based in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District (左營), the official said.

The Xining is the second Chinese warship to bear that name, the official said, adding that its predecessor with pennant number DDG-108 was a first-generation guided-missile destroyer, commissioned in 1980 and decommissioned in 2013.

A source familiar with naval affairs said that Taiwanese and Chinese warships rarely encountered each other in the past because the two navies usually restricted their ship movements to fixed lanes.

However, the PLAN has in recent years been moving its ships off the established lanes, leading to increased chances of maritime encounters, the source said.

The Taiwanese navy is to follow international customs regulating those occurrences to avoid friction, the source said.

A situation involving ships with the same name appearing in the same area is likely to cause difficulties, another unnamed defense ministry official said on Sunday.

Because the Taiwanese and Chinese navies both use place names for their ships, four ships have the same names: Taiwan’s Si Ning and Kun Ming and China’s Xining and Kunming, the official said.

Taiwan’s six Kang Ding-class frigates were named after the ROC’s former Chinese provinces, and Beijing also intends to name its destroyers after its major provinces and cities, with up to 18 ships planned, the official said.

According to the Taiwanese navy’s naming conventions, ships belonging to Class I principle warships are named after place names or military figures of renown, with Class II patrol ships named after mountains and Class III after rivers, the official said.

However, in 2005, the Legislative Yuan’s National Defense Committee requested that the defense ministry name new warships “using Taiwanese place names or names that resonate with Taiwanese,” and the military has complied, the official said.

The Taiwanese navy named its post-2005 Keelung-class destroyers Keelung, Su Ao, Tso Ying and Ma Kong, the official said.

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