Taiwan President Tsai Visits Navy Base
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited a naval base in southern Taiwan on Thursday, amid rising tensions between China and the United States over the transit of a US warship through the Taiwan Strait. Tsai, who is running for re-election in January, made the trip to the base on the southwestern tip of the island in a show of support for Taiwan’s military. She was accompanied by the Minister of National Defense and the chief of the general staff. The visit came just days after a US Navy destroyer, the USS McCampbell, sailed through the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China, in a move that angered Beijing. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has vowed to “resolutely oppose” any foreign vessels passing through the strait.
China Protests US Ship Passage
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the US warship’s transit through the strait and warning the United States against interfering in its internal affairs. The ministry also accused Washington of sending a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence forces.” The US State Department said the passage was in line with international law and “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” It added that the US Navy will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows. In response, China’s military said it had dispatched aircraft and warships to the region to monitor the situation and warned the US against further “provocative actions.” The Chinese military also accused the US of “jeopardizing peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Taiwan’s Military Build-up
The US has long been Taiwan’s most important international partner and has provided the island with military aid and training to help it defend itself against a possible Chinese attack. In recent years, Taiwan has been investing heavily in its military capabilities, including submarines, anti-ship missiles, and advanced aircraft. The US has also been stepping up its support for Taiwan, sending senior officials to the island and conducting joint military exercises with the Taiwanese military. The Trump administration has also approved a number of arms sales to Taiwan, including F-16 fighter jets and missile defense systems.
Taiwan’s Regional Relations
Taiwan has also sought to strengthen its regional ties in recent months. The island has signed free trade agreements with several countries, including Japan and the Philippines, and is in talks with other nations. At the same time, Taiwan has sought to boost security ties with the United States and other countries, including Australia, India, and Japan. Last month, Taiwan held its first-ever joint military exercise with the US, Japan, and India.
The tensions between the US and China have been escalating in recent months, with both sides engaging in a trade war and accusing each other of interfering in their respective internal affairs. The US has also been critical of China’s human rights record, while China has accused the US of trying to contain its rise. The Taiwan Strait has become a flashpoint in the US-China rivalry. The US has frequently sent warships through the strait in a show of support for Taiwan, and China has responded with military exercises and other measures.
The visit to the naval base comes as Taiwan prepares to hold presidential and legislative elections in January. Tsai is running for re-election and is expected to face a strong challenge from her main rival, Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party. The election is widely seen as a referendum on Tsai’s policies toward China, which have been largely confrontational. Tsai has rejected Beijing’s calls for Taiwan to accept its “one-China” principle and has sought to strengthen Taiwan’s ties with the US and other countries.
Tsai’s visit to the naval base is a further sign of the deepening tensions between China and the US over the transit of US warships through the Taiwan Strait. It also highlights Tsai’s efforts to strengthen Taiwan’s military capabilities and regional ties as she gears up for re-election in January.