Taiwan has commissioned the first of a dozen of its planned new Coast Guard ships that can be easily turned into deadly corvettes during conflict, as tensions with China continue to grow.
The advanced catamaran is the first in the fleet of 12 Anping-class patrol ships Taiwan plans to add to its Coast Guard. During war, the vessel can be converted into a full-fledged corvette and fitted with anti-ship and land-attack missiles.
“If necessary, it can be immediately transformed into an important force for defense,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at the commissioning ceremony in the southern city of Kaohsiung.
Tsai added that the ships were “superior in speed and functions” to the previous vessels of the same size, and would be used to “safeguard” Taiwan’s waters.
Made in Taiwan, to serve #Taiwan.
I was delighted to see our latest #MadeInTaiwan ship unveiled, ready to serve our tireless Coast Guard Administration on their mission to keep our waters safe. pic.twitter.com/KOcNvmqp2E
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) December 11, 2020
Taipei has launched an ambitious rearmament program in recent years to counter the military posturing of China, which claims the island nation as its territory. In June, Taiwan rolled out its first domestically-built jet trainer. Last month, Tsai formally launched Taipei’s program to build its own submarines, with the first sub expected to start sea trials in 2025.
The Taiwan News reported on Wednesday that the country plans to add four Tuo Jiang-class stealth corvettes dubbed ‘carrier killers’ to the Coast Guard by the end of 2026.
Aside from domestic production, Taiwan has secured several major deals to buy military hardware, including F-16 fighter jets and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, from the US this year, as Washington and Beijing have been increasingly accusing each other of provocations in the contentious South China Sea.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the weapon sales were meant to help Taiwan “in their defense capabilities.” Beijing, however, has repeatedly insisted that such transactions violate the ‘One China’ policy. Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stressed that arms deals between US and Taiwan have “seriously damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests, and sent wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists.”
Beijing-Taipei relations have also deteriorated in recent months, as China confirmed in November that it was taking steps to blacklist certain Taiwanese officials.
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