World War Three fears SURGE as Chinese WARSHIPS gather off US-backed ‘rebel’ Taiwan

The Taiwanese defence ministry warned it has seen an increase in patrols by Chinese warships around the island. Beijing claims ownership of Taiwan as part of its ‘One China’ policy. The US supports Taiwanese independence, and frequently sends naval forces into the area.

Taiwan claims “irregular” patrols by Chinese naval vessels in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China, are so common they are now “routine”.

The defence ministry claimed it has “effectively monitored the situations and movements around the Taiwan Strait by means of air and naval mechanisms to ensure national security”.

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Chinese warships have been moving closer to Taiwan, sailing near the middle of the 112-mile strait which separates the two states.

Increased activity by the Chinese navy appears to at least partly be a response to US military activity in the area.

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The US Pacific Fleet has conducted three high profile patrols of the area since July 7, most recently on November 28.

A Taiwanese military source told The South China Morning Post: “Each time the US sent warships through the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has also dispatched its fleets to track the US movements.”

Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, is the last stronghold of the anti-communist faction which lost China’s civil war in the 1940s.

Mainland China refuses to recognise Taiwanese independence, and has said it could use military force to re-establish control.

Beijing suspended diplomatic relations with the island after President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, and made moves to assert Taiwan’s independence.

After American warships passed by Taiwan on November 28 Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman, spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, told CNN: “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, said and operate anywhere international law allows.”

However, after the incursion, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US must “cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue, avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations”.

Since 2016 the Chinese government has put significant pressure on other countries to cut links with Taiwan, and currently only 17 nations maintain official diplomatic relations.