British frigate makes rare sailing through Taiwan Strait

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    Image source: Yahoo

A British frigate sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Monday en route to Vietnam, according to a tweet from the vessel, though drew only a muted response from Beijing despite heightened tensions between China and Taiwan.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military and political pressure to try and force the democratically ruled island to accept Chinese sovereignty.

While U.S. warships pass through the strait on an almost monthly basis, despite Chinese opposition, U.S. allies have generally been reluctant to follow suit.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not offer the usual harsh riposte that follows U.S. missions in the strait, saying only she hoped “relevant countries can do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between countries and truly maintaining regional peace and stability”.

In Taipei, Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng did not comment directly when asked about the British warship, saying he did not know what missions foreign ships in the Taiwan Strait were carrying out.

“When they pass through the Taiwan Strait our nation’s military will have a grasp of the situation, but will not interfere,” he told reporters, adding they keep a close watch on all movements near Taiwan.

Britain’s HMS Richmond had been deployed in the East China Sea taking part in United Nations sanctions enforcement operations against North Korea.

China has been ramping up its exercises around Taiwan and flies air force aircraft almost daily into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Kim Coghill, Lincoln Feast and Mark Heinrich

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