0616: Taiwan, U.S. Reject China’s Claim Over Taiwan Strait; U.S., Japan, S. Korea Emphasize Taiwan Strait Peace; U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan

Taiwan and U.S. Reject China’s Claim of Exclusive Sovereignty Over Taiwan Strait

Taiwan’s government on June 14 described China’s sovereignty claim over the Taiwan Strait as a “false claim” and said the only waters over which any country has full sovereignty are its 12-nautical mile territorial waters.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Joanne Ou reiterated the government’s stance that the Taiwan Strait consists of “international waters,” except for areas that can be defined as territorial waters.

“Our government has always respected any activities conducted by foreign vessels in the Taiwan Strait that are allowed by international law,” she said, including passages made by United States warships.

“We understand and support the freedom of navigation operations conducted by the U.S. as these operations promote peace and stability in the region,” she said.

Ou accused the Chinese government of “distorting international law” in ignoring Taiwan’s claim over the Taiwan Strait, and said that by downgrading the whole strait to China’s own exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Beijing “revealed its ambition to annex Taiwan.”

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries can claim an area 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the coast as their territorial seas, over which they have full sovereignty.

They can also claim waters up to 200 nautical miles from the coast as an EEZ, where they have jurisdiction to the water column and sea floor as well as resources, but other countries still have the right to sail through or fly over the waters.

Most of the Taiwan Strait is less than 200 nautical miles wide, resulting in overlapping EEZ claims in the waterway by Taiwan and China.

Ou was responding to comments by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who said on June 13 that China “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait” and denied U.S. claims that much of the strait is within international waters.

Wang claimed that the waterway fell within China’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone as defined by the UNCLOS and domestic law.

“There is no such thing as ‘international waters’ in UNCLOS. By claiming that the Taiwan Strait is international waters, some countries intend to create an excuse for its manipulation of the Taiwan issue and threaten China’s sovereignty and security,” Wang said in Beijing.

Wang made his comments in response to reports that Chinese military officials have repeatedly told their U.S. counterparts that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters.

The U.S. government on June 14 backed Taiwan’s assertion that the Taiwan Strait consists of international waters, a further rebuff to China’s claim to exercise exclusive sovereignty over the strategic passage.

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price said in an e-mail to Reuters: “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, meaning that the Taiwan Strait is an area where high-seas freedoms, including freedom of navigation and overflight, are guaranteed under international law.”

The world has “an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and we consider this central to the security and prosperity of the broader Indo-Pacific region,” Price added.

He reiterated U.S. concerns about China’s “aggressive rhetoric and coercive activity regarding Taiwan” and said the United States “would continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and that includes transiting through the Taiwan Strait.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202206140010
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2022/06/14/2003779871
[3] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/us-rebuffs-china-by-calling-taiwan-strait-an-international-waterway-2022-06-15/

U.S., Japan, South Korea Defense Ministers Emphasize Cross-Taiwan Strait Peace

Defense ministers from the United States, Japan, and South Korea on June 11 emphasized the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in a trilateral ministerial meeting held in Singapore.

The meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and his counterparts — Japanese Minister of Defense Kishi Nobuo and Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup — took place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a key regional security forum.

During their meeting, the defense ministers concurred in the importance of deepening trilateral cooperation on key issues to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and voiced strong opposition against any unilateral actions to change the status quo and increase tensions in the region, according to a joint statement released after the meeting.

The ministers “emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement said. “They also reaffirmed that all disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner in accordance with the principles of international law.”

The statement came after Austin warned China in a speech at the forum earlier on June 11 against taking a “coercive and aggressive” approach to its territorial claims, saying the stakes were especially high in the Taiwan Strait.

“Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait isn’t just a U.S. interest. It’s a matter of international concern,” Austin said in his speech, addressing China’s “growing coercion” against Taiwan as Chinese military planes have flown near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months.

Meanwhile, on June 10, Austin met with China’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe, also on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost,” Wei warned Austin in their first face-to-face talks, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said.

In his meeting with Wei, Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202206110024
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202206110010
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/06/11/2003779703

U.S. Approves US$120M Sale of Naval Supplies to Taiwan

The U.S. government has approved a proposed sale of US$120 million in spare parts for ships and systems, and related equipment to Taiwan, the fourth U.S. arms package to Taiwan approved under President Joe Biden.

According to a statement released by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on June 8, the proposed sale would include unclassified spare and repair parts for ships and ship systems, logistical technical assistance, U.S. government and contractor representative technical and logistical support, and other related elements of logistical and program support requested by Taiwan.

“The proposed sale will contribute to the sustainment of the recipient’s surface-vessel fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats,” the DSCA said.

The package will “contribute to the recipient’s goal of maintaining its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the U.S. and other allies,” it added.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) expressed “sincere gratitude” for the deal, saying it would help Taiwan’s Navy maintain proper equipment and replenish supplies to meet the actual needs of combat readiness in the face of increasingly assertive Chinese military activity.

The sale is expected to be finalized within one month, the MND added.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) welcomed the latest arms sale, saying it demonstrated that the U.S. had attached great importance to enhancing Taiwan’s self-defense capability.

It also showed the United States’ continued policy of normalizing arms sales to Taiwan, the MOFA added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202206090010
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/06/10/2003779650