UK warship's Taiwan Straits transit 'meaningless display of presence'
Symbolic move only undermines peace: experts
Published: Sep 27, 2021 10:55 PM Updated: Sep 27, 2021 10:58 PM
Vessels in the Taiwan Straits, July 20, 2017. /CGTN Photo

Vessels in the Taiwan Straits, July 20, 2017. /CGTN Photo

Mirroring the US move in August, a UK warship from the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group sailed through the Taiwan Straits on Monday, showing its presence in a provocative manner. Chinese experts said the symbolic move will not bring the UK back to its former imperial glory, but only destroy peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.

The People's Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command that dispatched units to monitor the British frigate through the Taiwan Straits on Monday slammed the move as a "meaningless display," and the theater command would remain on high alert and resolutely take actions against any acts of threats and provocations.

On a Monday Twitter post of the HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy and part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier strike group, it said the warship was passing through the Taiwan Straits to visit Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Navy, after "a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea."

HMS Richmond has conducted naval-air maneuvers for carrier-borne helicopters about 35 nautical miles west of Taipei Harbor, media on Taiwan island reported.

Shi Yi, the spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said on Monday that their air and navy forces have followed and supervised the transit.  

"The UK's ill-intentioned actions undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and expose its opportunistic mentality. We remain on high alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations," Shi said. 

East China's Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration announced on Monday military training in parts of the East China Sea will be conducted from September 28 to 29. 

The HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group passed through the Bashi Channel at the southern tip of Taiwan island on August 2 and sailed northward along the waters off the eastern Taiwan coast. It docked in Japan on September 4, media reported. 

Since US President Joe Biden took office in January, US warships have conducted Taiwan Straits transits at least nine times, according to estimates of media reports.  

Military operations around the island, described as "the most dangerous place on Earth" by The Economist, have become more frequent and the situation has not been relaxed. Taiwan media said that on Sunday, 8 PLA aircraft flew through Taiwan's self-proclaimed southwest "air defense identification zone."  

"Taiwan Straits is highly-sensitive in terms of politics… the UK's collusion with the US by sending warships to the Straits was a serious provocation," Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday.  

Analysts said against the backdrop of China-US confrontation, it can be expected that the US would be eager to get its allies to continue flexing their muscles in the Indo-Pacific. 

The leaders of the US, Japan, India and Australia concluded their QUAD summit on Friday, a few days after the US, the UK and Australia announced a security pact, AUKUS. The US Congress is even thinking about inviting Taiwan to the 2022 Rim of the Pacific exercise (Rimpac). 

"The UK wants to regain its imperial glory of centuries ago, at least psychologically. Historically, the UK was an Indo-Pacific power, covering India, Southeast Asia and even China's Hong Kong," said Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noting what the UK can do is largely symbolic as its power is very limited in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean.  

Experts said the US is simply a "marriage of convenience" for efforts to woo its allies to contain China.

The US is making a car dubbed "Indo-Pacific Strategy," while its allies like the UK, Japan, and India are thinking about getting a "free ride" to elevate their own influence, Lü said. 

While some secessionists on the island welcome Western support by sending warships through the Taiwan Straits, experts said Western involvement is bound to provoke a stern response from the Chinese mainland.  

This kind of "support" is meaningless... Neither the UK nor the US will help if the West continues to send more misinformation to secessionists, causing their misjudgment of the situation, which could force the mainland to take military action, Lü said.   

The US is more interested in turning the island into a "porcupine," trying to equip Taiwan through arms sales and secret training so that the mainland may be "pricked" when it acts with force, Lü said.   

The independent military industry of the UK has declined. It is difficult for the UK aircraft carrier battle group to achieve its effect by flexing its muscle, Song said. 

"China is not what it used to be either," Song said.