Yesterday the PLAN destroyer Wuhan (D169) escorted four ships through the pirate threatened area in the Gulf of Aden; two ships from Shanghai, one ship from the Philippines, and one ship from Taiwan. This made rather big news in both China and Taiwan, indeed the western press has also covered the story. One would think this is a productive form of security cooperation that would be celebrated, but there is too much paranoia in politics for such rational considerations. Observe the news from today.
Taiwan on Tuesday reiterated its ban on Taiwanese cargo ships' seeking help from Chinese warships when passing through the Gulf of Aden, one day after Chinese navy ships escorted a Taiwan ship off Somalia. Commenting on an issue sensitive to Taiwan's sovereignty, Chao Chien-ming, vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said Taipei has not requested that Beijing allow its warships to escort Taiwan vessels through the Gulf of Aden, so Taiwan cargo ships should not seek help from Chinese warships themselves.Do we empower this segregationist attitude from Taiwan? If perception is reality, then yes we do. What impression do you get from the various news reports suggests we have engaged the discussion in this mess.
Transport Minister You Fang-lai, meanwhile, said Taiwan has long-term anti-terrorism cooperation with the United States and European nations.
"So if there is an emergency, they should seek help from US and European patrol ships," he told reporters.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) issued a statement Tuesday saying it has discussed with Taiwan the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
The AIT statement also said the U.S. Navy has a responsibility to render assistance to any vessel in distress anywhere in the world that requests its assistance.
The AIT is the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.
The AIT statement drew attention as it came a day after China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese naval vessels escorted four merchant ships, including an oil tanker owned by a Taiwanese company, in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia in a special operation against pirate attacks.
The Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) clarified Tuesday that the Taiwanese tanker escorted by the Chinese naval fleet was in fact a Liberia-registered ship rented out to a South Korean company. The ship, named FormosaProduct Cosmos, is owned by Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group.
I looked around the American Institute of Taiwan website and couldn't find a statement, so without the details all I can do is hope we are being very smart about this. It bothers me just a little that we set up CTF-151 and someone in Taiwan thinks we should use this force to help out Taiwan for the intent of allowing them to avoid getting help from the Chinese. Seriously, are we actually participating in this political discussion? Are we building competition here, or cooperation? The Navy looks to me to be stuck in the middle of a diplomatic agenda towards empowering segregationist attitudes imminating from the AIT.
If it was me, I would have suggested the obvious, that the PLA Navy is escorting a Taiwanese ship because Taiwan doesn't have a warship deployed to do it themselves. China is clearly trying to generate populist propaganda within Taiwan by taking such action, so do something about it.
Most people may not realize this, but the Royal Navy today has 22 warships classified as destroyers and frigates in service. Taiwan has 4 Kidd class destroyers, which by my rating system qualify as 3rd rate battleships, but they also have 22 frigates (8 Perry, 8 Knox, and 6 La Fayette). Taiwan has more surface combatants than the Royal Navy does, and they have the Wu Yi fleet oiler they can use to deploy to Somalia. Why are we empowering their segregationist attitude against the PLAN off the Horn of Africa?
Just tell the good folks running the show in the Republic of China that if the PLA Navy isn't going to be allowed to escort your ships, then send your own warship to escort your ships. Whatever we do, we should not allow the diplomatic class in Taiwan to leverage CTF-151 as an alternative, read competitor, to the PLAN. After all, if CTF-151 isn't about building a relationship with China, India, and regional nations with a maritime security intent, why do it at all?