Taiwan navy adds two new warships as China tensions grow

President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Nov. 8 that Taiwan would not “concede one step” in defending itself as she inaugurated two frigates bought from the US aimed at boosting the island’s naval capabilities against China threats. (File/AFP/Chris Stowers)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Taiwan navy adds two new warships as China tensions grow

  • Beijing still claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification
  • China has also been incensed by recent warming ties between Washington and Taipei

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed Thursday that the island would not “concede one step” in defending itself as she inaugurated two frigates bought from the United States aimed at boosting Taipei’s naval capabilities against China.
Rival China has upped military drills including a live fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April, declaring its willingness to confront the island’s “independence forces.”
Beijing still claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides have been ruled separately since 1949 after a civil war.
China has also been incensed by recent warming ties between Washington and Taipei, including the US State Department’s approval of a preliminary license to sell submarine technology to the island.
The two Perry-class guided missile frigates were officially commissioned in a ceremony at Zuoying base in southern Kaohsiung city.
“We want to send a clear and firm message from Taiwanese people to the international community that we will not concede one step in defending... Taiwan and protecting our free and democratic way of life,” Tsai said after inspecting the ships.
China’s “military actions in the region not only attempt to weaken Taiwan’s sovereignty but will also damage regional peace and stability,” Tsai warned Thursday.
She vowed to continue enhancing the navy’s capabilities as part of the military’s goal to maintain what it calls “solid defense and multi-layered deterrence” to guard the island.
Navy chief of staff Vice Admiral Lee Chung-hsiao had said previously the warships’ anti-submarine capabilities are more advanced than the island’s existing eight Cheng Kung-class frigates and could have “deterrent effects” against China’s submarines.
The ships will be deployed to patrol the Taiwan Strait, the narrow waterway that separates the island and China, according to the navy.
Beijing has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office two years ago, as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China,” unlike the government of her Beijing-friendly predecessor.
In September, Washington irked Beijing when it announced plans to sell Taiwan $330 million in spare parts for several aircraft.
Washington remains Taipei’s most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
Built in the 1980s, the two frigates were originally named USS Taylor and USS Gary and were part of a $1.8 billion US arms deal to Taiwan announced in 2015 under the administration of US president Barack Obama.
They have been renamed Ming Chuan and Feng Chia.
According to Taiwan’s navy, the warships have “high mobility, high sea resistance and low noise” and are fitted with the SQR-19 sonar system currently used by US navy.


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 18 min 9 sec ago
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”