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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Taiwan Watching Chinese Movements After Beijing Denounces US Speaker Meeting

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 6, 2023

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in formation with the Japanese destroyer JS Umigiri (DD 158), South Korea's destroyers ROKS Yul Gok Yi (DDG 992), ROKS Dae Jo young (DDH 977) and ROKS Choi Young (DDH 981), combat support ship ROKS So Yang (AOE 51), and the U.S. destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) in the East China Sea on April 4, 2023. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in formation with the Japanese destroyer JS Umigiri (DD 158), South Korea's destroyers ROKS Yul Gok Yi (DDG 992), ROKS Dae Jo young (DDH 977) and ROKS Choi Young (DDH 981), combat support ship ROKS So Yang (AOE 51), and the U.S. destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) in the East China Sea on April 4, 2023. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Taiwan was keeping a close watch on a Chinese aircraft carrier and threats to inspect ships in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday after Beijing condemned a meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy - the third highest ranking official in the U.S. leadership hierarchy - and other Republican and Democratic lawmakers met Tsai on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

The meeting took place at a low ebb of U.S.-China relations and despite threats of retaliation from Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own and has not renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

The Chinese carrier, the Shandong, was spotted on Wednesday and was currently 200 nautical miles (370km) off Taiwan's east coast, Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters at parliament in Taipei.

"It is training but the timing is quite sensitive, and what it is up to we are still studying," Chiu said, adding aircraft had yet to be seen taking off from its deck.

He later told lawmakers the ship was east of the very southern tip of Taiwan, and Taiwanese warships were monitoring it at a distance of five to six nautical miles.

China has sailed its aircraft carriers near to Taiwan before and at similarly sensitive times.

In March of last year, the Shandong sailed through the Taiwan Strait, just hours before the Chinese and U.S. presidents were due to talk.
The U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz is also some 400 nautical miles east of Taiwan, Chiu said.

"It can't be said it's here for us, but as soon as this situation happened - it's all related," he added.

The U.S. Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China staged war games around Taiwan last August after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

The latest U.S. lawmaker delegation to Taiwan, led by Michael McCaul, the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, arrived in Taipei on Thursday.

Tsai is due to return to Taipei on Friday.

China complains
China's Defense Ministry condemned the McCarthy meeting, but did not threaten specific action.

"The Chinese People's Liberation Army adheres to its duties and missions, maintains a high degree of alert at all times, resolutely defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely maintains peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," it said in a statement.

Ko Cheng-heng, deputy head of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, told lawmakers on Thursday they did not expect such a strong reaction from China as followed Pelosi's trip.

"What the Chinese communists care more about is whether McCarthy will visit Taiwan," he said.

China is also trying to show a more diplomatic face to the world, Ko said, noting French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are currently in Beijing.

"So at the moment they are continuing to put on a more peaceful, great power image."

Taiwan is also concerned about China's announcement late Wednesday that its maritime safety administration is to inspect ships in the Taiwan Strait, including possibly boarding them.

Taiwan has told shipping operators that if they encounter such requests from China they should refuse them and immediately notify Taiwan's coast guard to render assistance.

Defence Minister Chiu said Taiwan will react if Chinese patrol ships cross the Taiwan Strait's median line, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.

China says the Taiwan Strait is its sovereign territory.

"It was China that unilaterally announced its jurisdiction over that sea, and we do not agree with this," Chiu said.

However, he said the ship China has sent to lead the inspections, the Haixun 6, is currently in waters close to the Chinese coast.
Ko added he was not aware of recent cases of China boarding Taiwanese ships to inspect them.


(Reuters: Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Liz Lee; Additional reporting by Roger Tung, Faith Hung and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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