South China Sea: Taiwan warships ‘stand guard’ as Beijing threat sees conflict turn ugly | World | NewsDecember 21, 2020
The group of aircraft carriers sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Sunday – one day after a US warship passed through the waterway. Six warships and eight air force aircraft were deployed to monitor the Chinese vessels, Reuters reports.
The group, led by China’s newest carrier the Shandong, stirred suspicion at a time of skyhigh tensions in the region.
Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its territory, has been advancing its military with the aid of US resources to deter the threat of their superpower neighbour.
Multibillion dollar support packages have been sent from the US to Taiwan during the Trump administration, right up to the final weeks of his term.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Shandong, which was formally commissioned one year ago, left the northern Chinese port of Dalian accompanied by four warships on Thursday.
It said the military had been deployed to “stand guard”, adding “with the support of the people, the national armed forces have the confidence and ability to guard the homeland, and ensure national security and safeguard regional peace and stability.”
The island nation has complained of constant Chinese military activity, such as ships and aircraft travelling nearby.
The group of Chinese carriers travelled in a southerly direction after passing through the Taiwan Strait.
On Saturday, a US warship also sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
Tuo Chiang-class vessel is a corvette, the smallest class of warship, and also has anti-aircraft missiles, a Phalanx close-in weapons system, two machine guns, and two torpedo tubes, according to Taiwan News.
Chinese state media, Global Times, said the Ta Chiang does not have the muscle to trouble its military in response.
The Trump administration has supplied 11 arms packages to Taiwan, amounting to $5billion dollars in 2020 alone.
This has prompted repeated threats of retaliation from China, which urged the US “to immediately cancel the projects of selling weapons”.
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), responded to the latest US defence sale to Taiwan, which cost $280million.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said they had supplied Taiwan with a Field Information Communications System (FICS) to help “modernize its military communication’s capability”.
Ren said the latest sale undermines “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
The remarks by Ren coincided with US navy ships entering the waters followed by “unscripted” live-fire combat training by the Chinese navy.
Ren said on Tuesday: “Any attempt of using Taiwan to contain China by the US is doomed to failure.
“China firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan and urges the US to immediately cancel the projects of selling weapons to Taiwan.”
In October, the US approved a $1.8bn (£1.3bn) weapons sale to Taiwan, including rocket launchers, sensors and artillery.
Taiwan has also started building eight new combat submarines, due to enter service in late-2024.