Wed, Feb 27, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US Navy shows commitment in Strait

PREPARED:A defense official said that routine Chinese military patrols have increased, causing Taiwan to dispatch Cheng Kung-class frigates supported by Knox-class frigates

By Lo Tien-pin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer and CNA

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday confirmed the passage of a US warship and a US supply ship through the Taiwan Strait on Monday.

The ships sailed northward and left the Strait in the early hours of yesterday morning, the ministry said.

The military was fully aware of the situation and there were no unusual incidents, it added.

The two ships were the USS Stethem and the USNS Cesar Chavez, a statement released by the US Pacific Fleet said.

“This routine transit through international waters of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The US Department of Defense “will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it said.

Monday’s event was the second time this year that US military vessels have passed through the Strait, and the fifth such passage in the past eight months.

The US Navy on Jan. 24 sailed the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS McCampbell and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl through the Strait.

Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) rejected speculation that the US decision to send military vessels through the Strait indicated a problem with regional stability, the Central News Agency reported.

The Taiwanese military has the ability to ensure safety in the Taiwan Strait, an unnamed military official said.

Last autumn, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels began carrying out routine patrols along the median line of the Strait, the official said, adding that in the past, China generally only sent military vessels through the Strait to carry out specific missions.

Taiwan, on the other hand, has been sending navy vessels on routine patrols in the Strait for decades, the official added.

The PLAN’s routine patrols have increased pressure on Taiwan to be prepared militarily so that, now, the military mainly dispatches Cheng Kung-class frigates, with Knox-class frigates serving as support, the official said.

In urgent situations, it might also dispatch fast-attack missile boats to monitor the region, the official said.

Due to safety concerns and in accordance with military preparedness, when a Chinese military vessel enters the Strait, Taiwan sends a vessel to monitor the situation, the official said.

“Where [Chinese military vessels] are, we will be,” the official said, adding that the military would not miss detecting any vessels.

The source did not respond as to whether military vessels from Taiwan, the US and China were ever observed in the same waters, monitoring each other.

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