British Warship Transits Taiwan Strait for First Time Since 2019, Amid China’s Increasing Threats toward Taiwan
British Royal Navy warship HMS Richmond sailed through the Taiwan Strait on September 27 on its way to Vietnam, according to the vessel’s Twitter account. It was the first such passage by a British naval vessel since late 2019, as a group of nations led by Washington pushes back at China’s military assertiveness.
The passing through of the HMS Richmond came a week after Tony Radakin, an admiral in Britain’s navy, told Nikkei Asia that it was “very clear that the Taiwan Strait is international waters,” reiterating that the waterway can be used by any nation, and not just by China.
The move by the U.K. comes as China has increased its military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to endorse the Chinese claim that democratic Taiwan is part of China.
On September 23, China sent 24 warplanes into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in a large display of force, just hours after Taiwan confirmed its application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The Chinese air force has made more than 500 incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ so far this year, compared with more than 300 a year in the 2020.
The HMS Richmond is part of a strike group led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, which is making a maiden operational mission to the Pacific region. The aircraft carrier and task group previously made a port call to Yokohama Japan earlier this month.
The U.S. routinely sends warships through the Taiwan Strait, with nine passages since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in this January. The U.S Navy last transited through the Taiwan Strait on September 17, a move it said illustrated “the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Following in the U.S. lead, Australia, France and Canada have also sent naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait since late 2018 to ensure freedom of navigation in the region.
 Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-27/u-k-warship-transits-taiwan-strait-for-first-time-since-2019
 Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109270006
 Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202109230023
 Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/09/19/2003764602
House Passes Defense Policy Bill with Pro-Taiwan Provisions
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its annual defense policy bill on September 23, which includes recommendations for inviting Taiwan to the 2022 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), strengthening Taiwan’s self-defense capability, and enhancing cooperation between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan.
In a 316-113 vote, the House approved its US$777.9 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 (H.R.4350), which includes three major provisions related to Taiwan under sections 1243, 1247, and 1248.
Under section 1248, the bill recommends that the U.S. should invite Taiwan’s Navy to participate in RIMPAC in 2022. Taiwan has never been invited to participate in RIMPAC, which is the world’s largest international maritime military exercise, hosted every two years by the U.S. Pacific Fleet near Hawaii to foster relations between the U.S. and its allies.
Section 1247 is pertinent to helping Taiwan strengthen its self-defense capability. It reiterates the importance of the “Taiwan Relations Act” and the “Six Assurances” as the foundation of the U.S.-Taiwan relations. It also calls for practical training and military exercises with Taiwan; exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese defense officials; enhancing the interoperability of the military forces of the U.S. and Taiwan; and improving Taiwan’s reserve force.
Section 1243 calls for a report, to be issued no later than February 15, 2022, on the feasibility of enhancing cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. National Guard. It requires an evaluation on a range of activities, including disaster and emergency response; cyber defense and communication security; military medicine; cultural and educational exchanges; and training Taiwan’s military reserve.
The Senate’s version of NDAA was approved by its Armed Services Committee in July and is expected to be considered by the full Senate in October.
On September 24, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said that it will make a prudential assessment of participating in RIMPAC based on its defense operations needs and will proactively seek to join exercises that are conducive to regional peace.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also thanked the U.S. Congress for having continued promoting U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation and exchanges and supporting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in its annual defense policy bill over the past few years.