South China Sea: Philippines ‘keeping options open’ says expert
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The huge 10,600-tonne ship – named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain Yu Shan – is the latest part of Taipei’s programme to modernise its armed forces amid growing tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said: “I believe that this ship will certainly strengthen the navy’s ability to fulfil its mission and further solidify our defences.”
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship will enter service next year.
CSBC chairman Cheng Wen-lung added how the vessel – which is large enough for landing craft and helicopters – will be used for transport to Taiwan’s possession in the South China Sea.
He also warned the ship will have an “amphibious warfare mission” if a war breaks out in the contested region.
Mr Wen-lung said: “During wartime it will have an amphibious warfare mission, bringing in reinforcements and fighting to retake offshore islands.
“It can carry out various battle missions on its own out at sea for a long time.”
He added how the ship has a “stealthy exterior” and electromagnetic pulse protection.
The ship will be equipped with a cannon for use against air and surface targets as well as anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have escalated over recent months after China conducted military exercises close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
Back in January, a total of 15 Chinese aircraft including 12 fighter jets entered into the southern part of Taiwan and the Pratas Island.
A further eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered Taiwan’s ADIZ urging the nation to deploy missiles to “monitor” the incursion.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted flights over the waters almost daily in recent months.
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However, they have generally been just one or two reconnaissance aircraft but Taiwan has said the presence of the Chinese combat aircraft was unusual.
A map from Taiwan’s defence ministry revealed the Chinese aircraft, including a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew over the same waters.
Following Beijing’s recent activity, the US State Department urged China to stop pressuring Taiwan.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said: “We urged Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.
“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defence capability.”
Canada, Australia and Japan have all voiced concerns about China’s dominance in the region.
The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained.
Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.
Despite not having a claim to any part of the archipelago, Washington has increased its military presence in order to counter China’s dominance in the region.
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