Beijing expresses ‘solemn concerns’ after US navy research ship docks in Taiwan

Vessel’s four-day refuelling stop comes as ties between China and US deteriorate over trade, security and strategic issues

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 9:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 6:27am

Beijing has expressed “solemn concerns” to Washington over a US navy research ship docking in Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung, as tensions rise over the trade war and China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific.

The research vessel has been docked at the Kaohsiung port since Monday for refuelling and crew changes, and it comes at a sensitive time, with ties between China and the US deteriorating over trade, security and strategic issues.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade province that must be brought back to the Chinese fold, if necessary by force. The research ship’s visit has angered Beijing, which has repeatedly warned Washington against trying to forge diplomatic and military ties with the self-ruled island.

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“The Chinese side … is expressing our solemn concerns to the US side,” said Lu Kang, a spokesman for mainland China’s foreign ministry, in Beijing on Wednesday. “China objects to all governmental and military contact between the US and Taiwan.”

Lu added that the US should stop all forms of official exchanges and military interactions with Taiwan and handle issues related to the island with prudence.

Beijing earlier demanded the US cancel a US$330 million sale of spare parts and related support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft. While Washington has no official relations with Taiwan, it is legally obliged to ensure the island has the means to defend itself.

The Thomas G Thompson entered the Kaohsiung port on Monday for the four-day refuelling stop, its fourth since May as part of an international oceanic research project which also involves Australia and the Philippines, Taiwanese officials said.

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“The vessel’s visit has nothing to do with the military,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday.

He added that the team on board the vessel was working with research institutes in Taiwan and elsewhere to collect maritime information data in waters close to the South China Sea.

But Wu steered clear of media speculation that the US vessel was docked in Kaohsiung’s harbour to test whether it was large enough to accommodate huge US naval ships ahead of a reported US plan for a military show of force in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea in November.

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