The Ministry of National Defense has not received intelligence that the US Pacific Fleet’s proposal to stage a “global show of force” would include a military drill in the Taiwan Strait, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday.
Yen made the remark at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao’s (賴士葆) question whether Washington has verified plans to conduct military drills in the Strait.
CNN on Thursday last week reported that the US Pacific Fleet is planning to conduct a series of naval operations to warn China that the US is prepared to counter its military activities in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
“The US has not made any comments on such allegations,” Yen said, adding that the show of force “would not necessarily be a military drill.”
Lai quoted US Vice President Mike Pence as saying that he has “not ruled out the possibility” of conducting military drills in the Strait, but Yen rejected the claim, saying that the ministry has failed to confirm the information.
The US Navy reportedly proposed the plan days after the Chinese destroyer Lanzhou on Sept. 30 sailed just 41m from the USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea.
The move was perceived as a challenge to the US’ right of free passage in its freedom of navigation operations.
The US Department of Defense has not commented on the reported drill, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said, adding that a US vice president usually does not make military decisions.
Lai Shyh-bao then asked the premier whether Taiwan-US relations were at their “all-time best.”
The US administration leaked information about the show of force to boost the Republican Party’s approval rating ahead of the US midterm elections on Nov. 6, Lai Shyh-bao said, adding that it also aims to help the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ahead of the nine-in-one local elections on Nov. 24.
However, the US is likely aiming to boost support for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) rather than for the premier, he added.
William Lai said that Lai Shyh-bao’s claim that Washington is trying to aid the DPP in the elections is proof that Taiwan-US relations are indeed at their all-time best.
If that were true, the ministry would not have to deny that the US had decided to conduct military drills in the Strait, the premier added.
Lai Shyh-bao said that the government should take a stand on the potential drill, as the Chinese Communist Party would not sit idly by in the event of such a provocation.
The premier should also ask Tsai to say in her Double Ten National Day speech today that the nation would only welcome US warships sailing through the Strait, but not a military drill, Lai Shyh-bao added.
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