For the first time since 2019, a warship of the British Royal Navy sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sept. 27, testing Beijing’s territorial claims.
The HMS Richmond, a frigate of the U.K.’s Carrier Strike Group, was led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The warship was on its way to Vietnam through the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates mainland China from Taiwan.
Beijing has repeatedly claimed that Taiwan is under its control, but Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen claims that Taiwan is “already independent”.
The HMS Richmond’s transit came as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been intensifying military, economic and political pressure on Taiwan, formerly known as the Republic of China (ROC). In 2021, the communist-led People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made over 500 intrusions into Taiwan’s air-defence identification zone (ADIZ) so far, putting the island’s defenses on alert for any possible military provocation.
While the United States has become the main nation to send its ships through the Taiwan Strait, other nations are beginning to follow suit in the wake of Beijing’s military provocations in the South China Sea.
The last Royal Navy vessel to make the passage through the strait was the British survey ship HMS Enterprise, which made it through the waterway in 2019. According to local media, this makes the HMS Richmond the first ship to move through the strait in almost a year.
“After a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea, we are now en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit Vietnam and the Vietnam People’s Navy,” the HMS Richmond tweeted.
British admiral Tony Radakin told Nikkei Asia that it was “very clear that the Taiwan Strait is international waters. It is a waterway that can be used by different nations.”
In a typical fashion, the CCP responded with wild allegations. It stated that the UK “harbored evil intentions.”
When asked about the transit, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters, “We hope the relevant countries can do more to build mutual trust between countries and uphold peace and security in the region.”
In July 2021, Beijing warned the U.K.’s Carrier Strike Group not to perform any “improper acts” in the South China Sea.
“PLA on [Monday] tracked and monitored a British frigate sailing through [the] Taiwan Strait.” tweeted People’s Daily, the state media controlled by the CCP. “With ill intentions, [the] UK’s move destroyed peace and stability in the area. China is on high alert and is ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time: PLA Eastern Theater Command.”
The CCP-run Global Times also claimed that “The People’s Liberation Army is at a high state of combat readiness.”