Taiwan's new coast guard flagship aims to counter Chinese threat

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials in front of the newly commissioned coast guard flagship Chiayi in the southern city of Kaohsiung yesterday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials in front of the newly commissioned coast guard flagship Chiayi in the southern city of Kaohsiung yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

KAOHSIUNG • Taiwan yesterday commissioned into service a new coast guard flagship to help counter China's "grey zone" war tactics against the island.

The island's civilian-run coast guard, which would operate as a branch of the navy in wartime, is often involved in confrontations with Chinese fishing and sand-dredging ships which Taipei says operate illegally in its waters.

Taiwan - which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified - calls these "grey zone" tactics designed to subdue the island, seeking to wear it down with repeated drills and activities in or near its airspace and waters.

Attending the commissioning of the domestically made NT$2.8 billion (S$133 million) Chiayi in Kaohsiung, President Tsai Ing-wen said the word "Taiwan" in English will be gradually printed on all coast guard vessels.

This "demonstrates our determination to defend the blue territory of the Republic of China", Ms Tsai said, using Taiwan's formal name.

Coast guard fleet branch director Hsieh Ching-chin told Reuters the Chiayi will be dispatched to Taiwan's western coast which faces China as well as Taiwan-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea.

"We will defend our sovereignty and fishing rights," he said.

The 4,000-tonne Chiayi is the coast guard's largest ship. It has three high-pressure water cannon, used in encounters with Chinese fishing boats and sand dredgers that illegally operate in Taiwanese waters, as well as a multiple rocket launcher system and machine guns.

In a report to Parliament this week, Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council, which oversees the coast guard, said China is aggressively expanding its maritime militia, seeking to create "grey zone conflicts" in the region.

"As long as they dare to cross the border, we will arrest them," Mr Hsieh said, referring to Chinese militias disguised as fishing boats.

The Chiayi is part of Taipei's plans to counter the growing Chinese threat, which also includes a target of building 141 new coast guard ships by the end of 2027, it said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2021, with the headline 'Taiwan's new coast guard flagship aims to counter Chinese threat'. Subscribe