British navy vessel passes through Taiwan Strait

Teddy Ng

A British navy survey vessel sailed through the Taiwan Strait, it was announced on Saturday, as the United Kingdom steps up its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a brief statement that HMS Enterprise had travelled northwards through the Taiwan Strait and the military had kept a close watch on the situation.

The ministry added that the “national army used joint intelligence surveillance and investigation [to monitor its passage] … there was no abnormality during this period”.

The vessel was commissioned in 2003 to conduct survey operations in support of submarines or amphibious operations.

Its previous missions include a deployment to Libya in August 2014 to help evacuate 217 British citizens and diplomats because of violence in the country.

It also helped rescue more than 9,000 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy in 2015.

It had also been deployed to Norway in 2018 as a mine counter measures command ship.

In January, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll conducted joint manoeuvres in the South China Sea with an Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyer the USS McCampbell.

Last year, HMS Albion, a 22,000-tonne amphibious warfare ship carrying a contingent of Royal Marines, passed by the Paracel Islands, asserting “freedom of navigation” rights and challenging Beijing’s “excessive claims” in the region.

Beijing reportedly dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to challenge the British vessels, but both sides remained calm. The Albion did not enter the territorial seas around any features in the hotly disputed region.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary, and opposes other nations having any sort of military exchange with the island.

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