The Ministry of National Defense yesterday downplayed the presence of a US Navy ship in Kaohsiung, saying it is a research vessel and urged people to stop speculating about its mission or how it relates to US policy.
The Thomas G. Thompson dropped anchor in the Port of Kaohsiung on Monday morning to replenish supplies and for crew replacement, Taiwan International Ports Corp (TIPC, 台灣港務) said in a statement.
The ship is owned by the Office of Naval Research.
It has visited Taiwan four times for resupply since its maiden voyage in April, the company said.
During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Jason Hsu (許毓仁) and Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬) asked Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) if the boat’s presence is connected to the US’ National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 or a US military show of force in the region.
The ministry monitors every vessel that enters the nation’s territorial waters, Yen said, adding that while the Thomas G. Thompson is nominally a US Navy vessel, it is operated by the University of Washington and exclusively for academic research.
The ship has no other known relationship with the US military and there is no reason to interpret its presence in Kaohsiung as related in any way to US legislation or a show of force in the South China Sea or waters near Taiwan, he said.
Earlier in the day, ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said the vessel’s mission is to exchange scientific data with National Taiwan University (NTU) oceanographers and atmospheric researchers.
The ship has been gathering data on regional oceanic currents in connection with an academic program that NTU announced last year on its Web site, he said.
“Public speculation [over the matter] is misplaced. This is a pure and simple scientific research mission,” he said.
However, retired navy captain Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩) said that the timing of the US vessel’s appearance in Taiwanese waters is of interest.
The ship is equipped with remote-operated vessels and autonomous underwater vehicles for conducting oceanographical surveys, which are essential for military navigation through a maritime region, said Lu, who is an instructor at the Republic of China Naval Academy in Kaohsiung.
The ship, which is heading to Fremantle, Australia, could have stopped in the Philippines instead of Kaohsiung for supplies, Lu said, adding that the seas near Kaohsiung are strategically important for submarine and anti-submarine warfare.
The last time the Thomas G. Thompson, which has a gross tonnage of 3,095, anchored off Kaohsiung was from May 3 to May 17, the TIPC said.
The ship is expected to depart for Australia at 6am tomorrow, it said.
Port of Kaohsiung workers said they saw the crew unloading the vessel’s radar for disassembly and storage in a cargo container.
Additional reporting by CNA
MAKING A MOVE: Starting on Monday, short-term business travelers can apply for shorter quarantine periods, while transits of up to eight hours would be allowed The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced an easing of restrictions that would from Monday next week allow foreigners to visit or make a transit flight in Taiwan. A policy allowing short-term business travelers from countries with low or medium risks of COVID-19 infections to apply for shorter quarantine periods is also to resume that day. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that while the autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program is to be extended after the end of this month, special conditions for foreign nationals to enter Taiwan would be restored from Monday. Foreign nationals
SPY GAMES: For more than 20 years, intelligence officers traveled to China, where they identified other MIB personnel and allegedly traded secrets for money and gifts The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday indicted four retired Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) officials, who are accused of providing China with a list of bureau personnel and other classified materials while attempting to recruit colleagues into a spy network in Taiwan. Prosecutors charged Chang Chao-jan (張超然), Chou Tien-tzu (周天慈) and Wang Ta-wang (王大旺), former colonels at the bureau, and Yueh Chih-chung (岳志忠) — a former major general and chief of the MIB’s Fifth Bureau, where he was in charge of sending agents to China on covert assignments — with breaches of the National Security Act (國家安全法) and the National Intelligence Services
CONTINUED VIGILANCE: People would still be required to wear masks at eight types of public spaces and border controls would continue, Chen Shih-chung told reporters The government’s autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program is to continue beyond Sunday, but eating and drinking on high-speed trains would be allowed from Monday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that while there were no new confirmed cases in Taiwan yesterday, the global COVID-19 situation remains serious, so the autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program would be extended beyond its Sunday deadline. “Border control measures, including requiring a negative polymerase chain reaction test result obtained within three days of boarding a plane to Taiwan, and undergoing quarantine in a
MORE RISK? Three Taiwanese family members were found to have the Brazilian variant, which CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo said might be more infectious From Wednesday, all travelers who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days are required to be quarantined at a centralized facility after arriving in Taiwan and undergo a COVID-19 test upon ending quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that starting from 12am on Wednesday, all travelers arriving from Brazil, including those who have transited through the country in the past 14 days, would have to stay at a centralized quarantine facility. “They will be tested for COVID-19 upon completing the 14-day quarantine, and they