Archive for ‘Taiwan Strait’

10/06/2019

China’s massive military spending is creating a ripple effect across the Asia-Pacific region

  • With a defence budget second only to the US, China is amassing a navy that can circle the globe and developing state-of-the-art autonomous drones
  • The build-up is motivating surrounding countries to bolster their own armed forces, even if some big-ticket military equipment is of dubious necessity
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honour guards before a naval parade in Qingdao. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews an honour guards before a naval parade in Qingdao. Photo: Xinhua
The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest-growing markets for arms dealers, with economic growth, territorial disputes and long-sought military modernisation propelling a 52 per cent increase in defence spending over the last decade to US$392 billion in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The region accounts for more than one-fifth of the global defence budget and is expected to grow. That was underscored last week by news of 
Taiwan

’s bid to strike a

US$2 billion deal

to purchase US tanks and missiles.

Taiwanese Soldiers on a CM11 battle tank, jointly developed with US arms manufacturer General Dynamics. Photo: EPA
Taiwanese Soldiers on a CM11 battle tank, jointly developed with US arms manufacturer General Dynamics. Photo: EPA
The biggest driver in arms purchases, however, is 
China

– responsible for 64 per cent of military

spending in the region. With a defence budget that is second only to the

US

, China is amassing a navy that can circle the globe and developing state-of-the-art autonomous drones. The build-up is motivating surrounding countries to bolster their armed forces too – good news for purveyors of submarines, unmanned vehicles and warplanes.

It is no coincidence that the recent 
Shangri-La Dialogue

in

Singapore

, a security conference attended by

defence

chiefs, was sponsored by military contractors including Raytheon,

Lockheed Martin

and

BAE Systems

.

Opinion: How the Shangri-La Dialogue turned into a diplomatic coup for China

Kelvin Wong, a Singapore-based analyst for Jane’s, a trade publication that has been covering the defence industry for 121 years, has developed a niche in infiltrating China’s opaque defence industry by attending obscure trade shows that are rarely advertised outside the country.

He said the US is eager to train allies in Asia and sell them arms, while also stepping up its “freedom of navigation” naval operations in contested waters in the

South China Sea

and Taiwan Strait. It has lifted a ban on working with

Indonesia

’s special forces over atrocities committed in

East Timor

. And it is considering restarting arms sales to the

Philippines

.

In his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan touted American advancements in technology “critical to deterring and defeating the threats of the future” and said any partner could choose to win access to that technology by joining the US defence network.
Wong said the message was clear: “Buy American.”
Analysts say Chinese soldiers have less training, motivation and lower morale than their Western counterparts. Photo: Reuters
Analysts say Chinese soldiers have less training, motivation and lower morale than their Western counterparts. Photo: Reuters
The analyst said there is a growing admission among the Chinese leadership that the

People’s Liberation Army

has an Achilles’ heel: its own personnel.

He said one executive at a Chinese defence firm told him: “The individual Chinese soldier, in terms of morale, training, education and motivation, (cannot match) Western counterparts. So the only way to level up is through the use of unmanned platforms and 
artificial intelligence

.”

To that end, China has developed one of the world’s most sophisticated drone programmes, complete with custom-built weapon systems. By comparison, Wong said,
US drones rely on weapons originally developed for helicopters.
Wong got to see one of the Chinese drones in action two years ago after cultivating a relationship with its builder, the state-owned China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation. He viewed a demonstration of a 28-foot-long CH-4 drone launching missiles at a target with uncanny ease and precision.
“Everyone knew they had this,” Wong said. “But how effective it was, nobody knew. I could personally vouch they got it down pat.”
China unveils its answer to US Reaper drone – how does it compare?

That is what Bernard Loo Fook Weng, a military expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told the author Robert Kaplan for his 2014 book, Asia’s Cauldron, about simmering tensions in the South China Sea.

He was describing the competition for big-ticket military equipment of dubious necessity.

Southeast Asia

is littered with examples of such purchases.

Thailand

owns an aircraft carrier without any aircraft. Indonesia dedicated about one-sixth of its military budget to the purchase of 11

Russian

Su-35 fighter jets. And

Malaysia

splurged on two

French

submarines it could not figure out how to submerge.

“It’s keeping up with the Joneses,” Wong said. “There’s an element of prestige to having these systems.”

Submarines remain one of the more debatable purchases, Wong said. The vessels aren’t ideal for the South China Sea, with its narrow shipping lanes hemmed in by shallow waters and coral reefs. Yet they provide smaller countries with a powerful deterrence by enabling sneak attacks on large ships.

Nuclear-powered PLA Navy ballistic missile submarines in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
Nuclear-powered PLA Navy ballistic missile submarines in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
Asia and

Australia

are home to 245 submarines, or 45 per cent of the global fleet, according to the US-based naval market intelligence firm AMI International.

The Philippines remains one of the last coastal nations in the region without a sub – though it is in talks with Russian builders to acquire some.
Singapore recently received the first of four advanced

German

Type 218 submarines with propulsion systems that negate the need to surface more frequently. If the crew did not need to eat, the submarine could stay under water for prolonged periods. Wong said the craft were specially built for Asian crews.

“The older subs were designed for larger Europeans so the ergonomics were totally off,” he said.
Singapore, China deepen defence ties, plan larger military exercises
Tiny Singapore plays a crucial role securing the vital sea lanes linking the Strait of Malacca with the South China Sea. According to the

World Bank,

the country dedicates 3.3 per cent of its gross domestic product to defence, a rate higher than that of the United States.

State-of-the-art equipment defines the Singapore Armed Forces. Automation is now at the centre of the country’s military strategy, as available manpower is shrinking because of a rapidly ageing population.
Wong said Singapore is investing in autonomous systems and can operate frigates with 100 crew members – 50 fewer than they were originally designed for.

“We always have to punch above our weight,” he said.

Source: SCMP

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31/05/2019

Taiwan question brooks no foreign interference: spokesperson

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) — Taiwan is a part of China and Taiwan question is China’s internal affairs that brooks no foreign interference, said Wu Qian, a spokesperson with the Ministry of National Defense, on Thursday.

Wu made the remarks in response to the United States’ recent frequent provocations on Taiwan-related issues, including the passing of the “Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019” by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The one-China principle is a universal consensus of the international community and the important political foundation for the China-U.S. relationship, Wu said.

The recent moves by the U.S. side have severely damaged the development of the relationships between the two countries and the two militaries, undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, Wu added.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has firm determination, full confidence and sufficient capacity to thwart any separatist activities and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Wu said.

Source: Xinhua

30/05/2019

China’s top political advisor meets Taiwan delegation

CHINA-BEIJING-WANG YANG-YOK MU-MING-MEETING (CN)

Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, meets with a delegation from Taiwan led by New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming in Beijing, capital of China, May 29, 2019. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) — China’s top political advisor Wang Yang on Wednesday met with a delegation from Taiwan led by New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming.

Wang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, stressed the greater national interests of pursuing reunification, which he said is an undeniable duty for every Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Wang expressed the mainland’s willingness to engage in talks and consultation with political parties, organizations and individuals from Taiwan on the basis of upholding the 1992 Consensus and opposing “Taiwan independence.”

He also pledged efforts to implement the consensus reached during consultations, deepen cross-Strait exchanges and integrated development, promote more favorable policies benefiting Taiwan, and encourage young people from Taiwan to study, work and start businesses on the mainland.

Noting that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, Yok expressed hope for the two sides to cooperate more, and better understand each other, forging a strong common identity and the sense of mission to pursue peaceful reunification, so as to realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation at an early date.

Source: Xinhua

28/05/2019

Taiwan lands warplanes on highway as part of military exercise

  • President Tsai Ing-wen says Taipei should ‘maintain a high degree of vigilance’
  • Exercise simulates response to attack from mainland on military bases
President Tsai Ing-wen and senior Taiwanese military staff during an exercise in southern county Changhua, not far from one of the island’s main airbases at Taichung. Photo: Facebook
President Tsai Ing-wen and senior Taiwanese military staff during an exercise in southern county Changhua, not far from one of the island’s main airbases at Taichung. Photo: Facebook
Taiwanese warplanes landed on a highway on Tuesday as part of annual exercises designed to test the island’s military capabilities and resolve to repel an attack from the mainland across the Taiwan Strait.
President Tsai Ing-wen watched the exercise in the southern county of Changhua, not far from one of Taiwan’s main airbases at Taichung.
“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Tsai said. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability.
“We should maintain a high degree of vigilance,” she said.
Taiwanese warplanes are parked on a highway during an exercise to simulate a response to a mainland attack on its airfields in Changhua. Photo: AP
Taiwanese warplanes are parked on a highway during an exercise to simulate a response to a mainland attack on its airfields in Changhua. Photo: AP

Aircraft involved in the exercise included US-made F-16 Fighting Falcons, French Mirage 2000s, Taiwan-made IDF fighter jets and US-built Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

Ground crews practised refuelling and ammunition replenishment before the aircraft returned to the air. About 1,600 service personnel were mobilised in Tuesday’s exercise.

The event marked the exercise debut of the first F-16 upgraded to the V variant, featuring advanced radar and combat capabilities. Taiwan is spending about US$4.21 billion to upgrade 144 F-16As and Bs to the F-16V version.

Rare meeting between Taiwanese, US security officials angers Beijing
Taiwan buys military hardware mainly from the US and has asked to purchase new F-16V fighters and M1 Abrams tanks.

American arms sales to Taiwan have long been a thorn in the side of US relations with China, routinely drawing protests from Beijing that Washington had reneged on commitments.

Beijing has also been angered by warming relations between Taipei and Washington since Tsai came to power in 2016.

On Monday, Beijing reacted frostily to photos showing a rare meeting between uniformed Taiwanese officers and their US counterparts this month.

A Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet takes off from a highway during an emergency take-off and landing drill in Changhua, Taiwan. Photo: EPA
A Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet takes off from a highway during an emergency take-off and landing drill in Changhua, Taiwan. Photo: EPA

Last week, Beijing lodged a protest with Washington after two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan expected to be outgunned in terms of troop numbers and firepower in any war with mainland China but it claimed to have had developed sophisticated asymmetric warfare tactics to make any invasion costly for Beijing.

“There are only a few military airbases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” air force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao.

Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

Taiwan’s Central News Agency said highway take-off and landing drills last took place in 2014. A military source told CNA that Tuesday’s drill was not much different from those conducted by the military during the Han Kuang exercises, but it was still challenging.

Among the challenges were that the drill could not be rehearsed and it required clear communications between the military, police and the National Freeway Bureau, said the source.

Source: SCMP

23/05/2019

U.S. Navy again sails through Taiwan Strait, angering China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway, angering China at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

The voyage will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing, which views the island as a breakaway province.

The transit was carried out by the destroyer Preble and the Navy oil tanker Walter S. Diehl, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.
“The Taiwan issue is the most sensitive in China-U.S. relations,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the two U.S. ships had sailed north through the Taiwan Strait and that they had monitored the mission.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said there was no cause for alarm.
“Nothing abnormal happened during it, please everyone rest assured,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
U.S. warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait at least once a month since the start of this year. The United States restarted such missions on a regular basis last July.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers part of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.
Beijing said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship, first reported by Reuters, was illegal.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.
On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday that China had shown “utmost restraint”.
“With tensions between the two countries already rife, there is no guarantee that the presence of U.S. warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries,” it said.
Source: Reuters
11/05/2019

Top political advisor meets with media representatives across Taiwan Strait

CHINA-BEIJING-WANG YANG-MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES ACROSS TAIWAN STRAIT (CN)

Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, meets with representatives of media outlets from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, who attended a media summit, in Beijing, capital of China, May 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhua) — Top political advisor Wang Yang Friday met with representatives of media outlets from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The trend of the times that the cross-Strait relations move forward in the new era cannot be obstructed by anyone or any forces, said Wang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, while meeting with the representatives who attended a media summit in Beijing.

Media outlets across the Strait shoulder the social responsibility of maintaining and promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, said Wang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

He called on the media on both sides to continue giving voice to pushing forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and advancing the process toward the peaceful reunification of the motherland and to make their contributions to realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Source: Xinhua

06/05/2019

China fires up drills near Taiwan Strait in test of combat strength

  • Military exercises this week meant to foster image that Beijing can win a war over the island, analyst says
The PLA is staging live-fire drills at the northern end of the Taiwan Strait this week. Photo: AP
The PLA is staging live-fire drills at the northern end of the Taiwan Strait this week. Photo: AP
Beijing is conducting live-fire military drills at the northern end of the Taiwan Strait as it signals its resolve to thwart “pro-independence forces” in Taiwan.
Authorities in the small city of Yuhuan, Zhejiang province, notified the public on Sunday that a “no-sail zone” and “no-fishing zone” would be in effect in the area until Friday night.
It said the drills were part of the People’s Liberation Army’s “annual regular exercise plans” and would involve “actual use of weapons”.
“According to the annual [PLA’s] regular training plan … live-fire exercises involving the use of real weapons will be organised … in the designated areas from 6am on May 5 to 6pm on May 10,” the authorities said.
Collin Koh, a military analyst from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said the stress on the live-fire manoeuvres suggested the six-day exercise would simulate real combat conditions.
The drills come hard on the heels of an annual report by the Pentagon warning that China was preparing options to unify Taiwan by force, and there was a need to deter, delay or deny any third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is bound by law to help defend the self-ruled island. Washington is Taipei’s main source of arms, selling the island more than US$15 billion in weaponry since 2010, according to the Pentagon.
Beijing ‘loses all hope for Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen’ as she rallies Washington

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the China-US relationship – along with a trade war, Beijing’s growing influence in emerging economies, and its stronger military posture in the South China Sea. On Monday, two guided-missile destroyers, USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon passed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands, drawing immediate criticism from Beijing.

In addition, Taiwan will hold its annual Han Kuang live-fire drills from May 27 to 31 and held a computer-aided one just last month.

A Taiwan affairs analyst from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the drills off Zhejiang were meant to show Beijing’s determination to defend its position on Taiwan.

“Beijing is trying to build up an image that China can win a war over Taiwan and Beijing’s key goal is to contain pro-independence forces, which are the biggest threat now to the peaceful unification process,” the analyst said.

Koh agreed, saying the drill sent a signal to external and domestic parties after the recent high-profile transits of US warships through the Taiwan Strait.

“The messaging to domestic audience is necessary because Beijing can’t be seen as weak following those reported transits by foreign warships – especially the Americans who are seen as supporting Taipei,” Koh said.

“And regarding external audience, the messaging is quite obviously to demonstrate that Beijing is ready to respond more resolutely to future such transits, following the tough verbal responses from Beijing, including its statement that it considers the strait under its jurisdiction and comprise its internal waters.”

Beijing ‘tones down’ response after US warships sail through Taiwan Strait

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have plunged since Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election in 2016 and repeatedly refused to accept the “1992 consensus”, which Beijing says is the foundation for cross-strait dialogue.

In response, Beijing ramped up pressure against the island, including conducting more military exercises and establishing diplomatic ties with Taipei’s allies.

Source: SCMP

30/04/2019

Chinese embassy in Paris warns tourists to beware the beautiful bandit … and other sneak thieves

  • Notice says holidaymaker found his wallet and mobile phone missing after being asked for directions by an attractive woman on the Champs-Élysées
  • Warnings come just days after Beijing withdraws invitation to join navy’s anniversary parade for French frigate that sailed through Taiwan Strait
Chinese tourists have been warned to be on their guard when visiting France. Photo: AFP
Chinese tourists have been warned to be on their guard when visiting France. Photo: AFP
Chinese visitors to Paris have been warned to be on the look out for a bewitching blonde who preys on the good nature and naivety of tourists to relieve them of their valuables.

According to a series of notices posted on the website of the Chinese embassy in the French capital, the alluring larcenist is just one of a number of con artists and crooks that prowl the city in search of easy targets.

Holidaymaker “Shen” became their latest victim earlier this month, the mission said.

“On April 1, a Chinese citizen surnamed Shen was appreciating the beautiful scenery at Avenue des Champs-Élysées, when a blonde approached him and asked for directions,” according to one of the notices posted on the site on Thursday.

The Arc de Triomphe stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, where a Chinese tourist identified only as “Shen” was allegedly robbed on April 1. Photo: Xinhua
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, where a Chinese tourist identified only as “Shen” was allegedly robbed on April 1. Photo: Xinhua

“Although Shen was curious why the blonde would chose a foreigner like him for directions, he still replied as he had made some travel preparations.”

It was only after the woman had walked away that Shen realised his mobile phone and wallet were missing, it said.

Cherish the love: China and France should disrupting ties, Beijing says

Pickpockets and sneak thieves are a threat to all visitors to France, but the Chinese are often regarded as prime targets because of the belief they carry lots of cash and valuables, the embassy said.

As well as the Champs-Élysées, tourists were warned to take extra care when visiting attractions like the Palace of Versailles and Sacré-Coeur, and when travelling on the subway.

“Be aware of strangers in public places and on public transport, and always pay attention to your belongings,” the embassy said.

The notice about Shen did not say if he had reported the suspected theft to the local police.

Pickpockets and sneak thieves are a threat to all visitors to France, but the Chinese are often regarded as prime targets, the embassy said. Photo: AFP
Pickpockets and sneak thieves are a threat to all visitors to France, but the Chinese are often regarded as prime targets, the embassy said. Photo: AFP

According to the Paris Region Tourism Board, China accounts for the third largest number of visitors to France after the United States and Britain. Chinese tourists made 1.1 million trips to the country in 2017 and the figure is forecast to grow to 2 million by 2022.

While most experience trouble-free trips, there have been reports of Chinese visitors to France being robbed or even assaulted in recent years.

In November 2017, a group of 

tourists were attacked

in the car park of their hotel in the Val-de-Marne suburb of Paris after returning from a shopping trip. Their four assailants made off with nine bags filled with luxury goods.

A year earlier, 27 Chinese tourists were attacked by a group of six Frenchmen as they boarded a bus that was about to take them to the airport.
Source: SCMP
27/04/2019

Cherish the love: China and France should avoid causing unnecessary upset, Beijing says

  • Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian the two sides should ensure ties ‘continue to develop in a healthy way’
  • Meeting comes after Paris angers Beijing by sending a warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait
Paris upset Beijing earlier this month by sending its frigate Vendémiaire through the Taiwan Strait. Photo: Reuters
Paris upset Beijing earlier this month by sending its frigate Vendémiaire through the Taiwan Strait. Photo: Reuters
France and China should value their strong relationship and not take actions that disrupt it, China’s foreign minister told his French counterpart on Thursday, just days after 
Beijing expressed its upset

at Paris for sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait earlier this month.

Speaking at a meeting on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Wang Yi told Jean-Yves Le Drian that the two nations “should cherish their hard-won and good relations”.
“[We should] avoid unnecessary disruptions and ensure that bilateral relations continue to develop in a healthy and progressive way,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued on Friday by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Le Drian responded by saying France was willing to cooperate with China to “maintain the growth momentum of bilateral relations”, according to the statement.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that Paris was willing to cooperate with Beijing. Photo: Xinhua
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that Paris was willing to cooperate with Beijing. Photo: Xinhua
The

French frigate Vendémiaire

passed through the Taiwan Strait on April 6. It had been expected to take part in a naval parade on Tuesday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of China’s navy, but Beijing withdrew the invitation in response to the action.

The defence ministry in Paris said this week it had been “in close contact with the Chinese authorities” about the incident.
EU’s connectivity plan ‘more sustainable’ than belt and road

A spokesman for the European Union said the trading bloc was committed to a rules-based maritime order based on international law, including freedom of navigation, and that it was in regular contact with the member states.

Chinese academics said that after the transit by the French warship it was likely that more Western countries would make their presence known in the region and that Beijing should remain vigilant.

“France wants to show that as a great power it has a broader concern in Asia-Pacific beyond trade and other ‘soft’ fields,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

“And it will exert its right to free navigation in any international waters regardless of China’s position or sensitivities.”

The Taiwan Strait is about 160km (100 miles) wide and divides mainland China from Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. The US, meanwhile, is bound by law to help the self-ruled defend itself and frequently sends warships through the strait in a show of support.

Shi said that US President Donald Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which regards China as a “strategic competitor”, might draw “opportunistic associates” – like France and Britain – into the region.

“Some other states could be encouraged by the French action to do the same,” he said. “But [they] may also be deterred by China’s probable military and diplomatic responses, which would be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

Putin gets behind Xi’s belt and road plan in face of US hostility

Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University, said France’s conduct was intended to show the “shared concern of Western allies” regarding the security aspect of cross-strait relations.

“China must be vigilant to the new tendency [for nations] to internationalise the Taiwan Strait issue,” he said, though added that the transit of the French warship was “more of a symbolic gesture than actual action”.

Philippe Le Corre, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and former special assistant for international affairs to the French defence minister, said the Taiwan Strait did not belong to any one nation and, therefore, ships were within their rights to sail through it without prior authorisation.

“From Paris’s point of view, like the rest of the EU, the principles of freedom of navigation are critical to the world economy and trade, therefore there is no reason why European navies or even commercial ships should not be allowed to cross the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

“This is EU policy, not just France or the UK. It has nothing to do with the US, it is international law.”

Source: SCMP

25/04/2019

Exclusive: In rare move, French warship passes through Taiwan Strait

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A French warship passed through the strategic Taiwan Strait this month, U.S. officials told Reuters, a rare voyage by a vessel of a European country that is likely to be welcomed by Washington but increase tension with Beijing.

The passage, which was confirmed by China, is a sign that U.S. allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation in international waterways near China. It could open the door for other allies, such as Japan and Australia, to consider similar operations.

The French operation comes amid increasing tensions between the United States and China. Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a French military vessel carried out the transit in the narrow waterway between China and Taiwan on April 6.

One of the officials identified the warship as the French frigate Vendemiaire and said it was shadowed by the Chinese military. The official was not aware of any previous French military passage through the Taiwan Strait.

The officials said that as a result of the passage, China notified France it was no longer invited to a naval parade to mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s Navy. Warships from India, Australia and several other nations participated.

China said on Thursday it had lodged “stern representations” with France for what it called an “illegal” passage.

“China’s military sent navy ships in accordance with the law and the rules to identify the French ship and warn it to leave,” defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a regularly scheduled media briefing, while declining to say if the sailing had led to the withdrawal of France’s invitation to the parade of ships this week.

“China’s military will stay alert to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and security,” he said.

Colonel Patrik Steiger, the spokesman for France’s military chief of staff, declined to comment on an operational mission.

The U.S. officials did not speculate on the purpose of the passage or whether it was designed to assert freedom of navigation.

MOUNTING TENSIONS

The French strait passage comes against the backdrop of increasingly regular passages by U.S. warships through the strategic waterway. Last month, the United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait.

The passages upset China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory. Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island.

Chen Chung-chi, spokesman for Taiwan’s defence ministry, told Reuters by phone the strait is part of busy international waters and it is “a necessity” for vessels from all countries to transit through it. He said Taiwan’s defence ministry will continue to monitor movement of foreign vessels in the region.

“This is an important development both because of the transit itself but also because it reflects a more geopolitical approach by France towards China and the broader Asia-Pacific,” said Abraham Denmark, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia.

The transit is a sign that countries like France are not only looking at China through the lens of trade but from a military standpoint as well, Denmark said.

Last month, France and China signed deals worth billions of euros during a visit to Paris by Chinese President Xi Jinping. French President Emmanuel Macron wants to forge a united European front to confront Chinese advances in trade and technology.

Source: Reuters

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